By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
October 5, 2012
If there’s one sport ESPN is criticized for not covering more in-depth, it’s hockey. Despite the NHL being in a lockout, SportsCenter has spent less than 1% of its time talking about the work stoppage, according to a report from the sports blog Deadspin. This is in sharp contrast to the NFL and NBA lockouts, which received much more attention from the network.
Hockey fans would blame the lack of coverage on the fact that ESPN doesn’t own NHL rights. But while NBC scrambles to find programming for lost games, ESPN finally is investing in the sport… just not in the NHL. ESPN has signed a deal with the Russian KHL to show on ESPN 3 games featuring NHL players. ESPN 3 already has picked up five games over the next two weeks, three of which feature Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. Other prominent NHLers that have joined the KHL include Evgeni Malkin and Zdeno Chara.
Considering NBC owns exclusive NHL rights through 2021, don’t look too much into ESPN’s move. However, adding KHL rights is a wise decision for ESPN, which could boost its online audience with the best pro hockey league currently in play.