Is ESPN making a move on the NHL?

Has anyone else noticed the sudden attention hockey has gotten on ESPN?

A documentary about the trade of Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings aired on the sports channel recently, along with getting quite a few appearances of hockey on Sports Center recently.

NHL hockey is not shown on ESPN. Not at all. So why is the channel that deemed poker and darts more worthy of a sports network than hockey showing a whole lot of hockey now?

I believe it is so they can get the Winter Classic on their channel.

The NHL has struck gold with the Winter Classic, the outdoor game at a non-hockey location that has become an annual event on New Year’s Day. It is novel, popular, great to watch and attractive to fans and non-fans alike. ESPN wants a part of that. They have been left out in the cold for this attraction, and they don’t like it.

Thus, ESPN has hinted at bringing hockey back to its programming, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman just might accept that offer.
Hockey was nice on ESPN. Gary Thorne and Bill Clement were excellent, NHL 2Nite was a great show, and having a second game on ESPN2 was nice.

Would it have been great if hockey never left the channel? Absolutely. Should the NHL go back if it gets the chance? No.
I have probably just lost quite a few readers. But hear me out. When the NHL was on ESPN, they got about as short-shifted as they do now. Highlights were rare and only on late into the broadcasts.

Think back: Hockey was never really included in programming. NHL 2Nite was a highlight show no better than the shows on Versus, and if you can catch the NHL Network, NHL on the Fly is much better than both.

Not to mention, the fan base was not any bigger because of ESPN. Nobody watches a game of something casually and then becomes a serious, die-hard, money-paying fan of any sport.

Moreover, do we really want to go back to a channel that flat out rejected hockey after ignoring it for so long? Do we want to do that when we have a channel that likes hockey, wants to put it first and foremost in their programming, and is proud to have hockey?

It might not be the best network, it might not have the best coverage or the most availability, but at least it wants hockey.
Those of you who have listened to my radio broadcasts know how much I hate ESPN. The channel is the MTV of sports. Name a show anchor on ESPN who cares more about sports more than themselves. Go ahead, I dare you.

How about stupid self-promoting shows such as “Who’s Now,” a show devoted to determining who is the most popular athlete, all of the nominations done by ESPN. My favorite example of how ESPN culture works is a poll about which athlete who played despite an injury was the toughest. The runaway winner was Tiger Woods, playing golf after knee surgery.

First off, from experience, I can tell you that isn’t the toughest thing to do. Second, how about Jack Youngblood, who was an option, who played through the entire 1979 playoffs, including Super Bowl XIV, and the following Pro Bowl with a fractured fibula?! Or, more impressive, Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug injured her ankle in her first vault, and then jumped again. She won the gold medal for the United States in an event that America had never won, and did it by landing on a very injured ankle without painkillers.

She was also overlooked in the poll. Neither of those athletes bested a golfer?! Really?! How absurd is that? To prove how well ESPN has groomed us, Terrell Owens was dead last.

I really hope the NHL has some pride, and doesn’t go groveling back to the mindless popularity-contest cesspool of ESPN.
I’m sure there are many of you who are shaking your heads in disagreement. I hope there are many who were swayed by my arguments and agree with me. Either way, leave a comment, say what you think in a well-thought-out argument and let’s get some discussion going.