The National Hockey League matches will return to ESPN starting in the 2021-22 season.
ESPN and NHL announced a seven-year deal on Wednesday, returning hockey to ESPN for the first time since 2004. This will include 25 regular season matches on ESPN or ABC, an early playoff series and one final conference each year, four Series Cup Finals Stanley is on ABC for the next seven years, and more than 1,000 games each season are being broadcast on ESPN +. ESPN + and Hulu will be home to 75 exclusive ESPN broadcasts per season.
The deal also includes the Opening Night Games, the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge and other special events. The NHL’s off-market broadcast package (NHL.TV) is also moving to ESPN + as part of its subscription offers.
International rights in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe are also part of the deal, as are the rights to highlight ESPN’s digital platforms.
Executives from NHL and The Walt Disney emphasized the platform’s rich offerings as a core part of the agreement.
“This agreement clearly affirms the leadership of Walt Disney Company in the sports media scene and serves as a blueprint for future sporting deals,” said Jimmy Pettaro, president of ESPN and Disney’s Sports Content, in a statement. “We know the strength of the NHL and are happy to welcome it again as an important new pillar across our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the world’s most passionate sports fans.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also praised the deal. “Not only will this groundbreaking seven-year deal enable NHL to tap into the unparalleled power, reach and influence of Walt Disney and ABC / ESPN, but it also sets a new standard in introducing our game to the most passionate and tech-savvy people – the smartest sports fans in the ways they demand it. Now and on the platforms they use. “
ESPN + currently has over 12 million subscribers. Hulu has 39.4 million.
The first NHL game appeared on ESPN on December 19, 1979 – just over three months after the network premiered. ESPN continued to produce NHL content for the next nine years. After a hiatus, the network became the home of the NHL from 1992 to 2004.
Since then, all of the games have been streamed on NBC or their cable properties.