ESPN Angers NHL Fans, Again, This Time By Delaying Broadcast Shift From Sunday Night Baseball To Oilers/Knights Playoff Game

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Back in the 90s, ESPN and the NHL had a terrific relationship. Just hearing the theme song puts me in a good mood. But the league left the network after the 2004 season and began bouncing around before returning to ESPN in 2021.

The network promised to deliver the hockey content that it did back in the 1990s and early 2000s. It said it wanted to help “grow the game.”

But two years in and ESPN doesn’t seem overly interested in promoting hockey nearly as much as other properties.

In fact, the NHL and fans got extremely upset when Stephen A. Smith went on First Take and, essentially, said hockey doesn’t matter.

Then, last week, ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson made a joke about NHLer Zach Whitecloud. That didn’t go over well, either.

ESPN’s decision to feature Sunday Night Baseball over an NHL playoff game did not sit well with hockey fans

On Sunday night, ESPN had Sunday Night Baseball between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox. It also had the Western Conference semifinal between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers happen to have the sport’s best player — Connor McDavid — on their roster. In addition, this was a Game 6 matchup in which the league’s certain MVP (McDavid) was facing elimination.

ESPN angers NHL fans by prioritizing a Sunday Night Baseball blowout over Game 6 between the Oilers and Golden Knights.
ESPN angers NHL fans by prioritizing a Sunday Night Baseball blowout over Game 6 between the Oilers and Golden Knights. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Yet, instead of moving Sunday Night Baseball — which was a regular season blowout in favor of the Cardinals — to ESPN 2, ESPN put the pivotal Game 6 contest there instead.

But don’t worry, it also carried both on the main network … sort of.

I guess credit to ESPN for showing the opening puck drop, but why not move baseball to ESPN 2 and start the playoff game on the main channel? Again, it’s a 9-1 baseball game in May.

If ESPN really wanted to grow hockey, it could definitely do more. Plus, there’s a rumor floating around social media.

Naturally, NHL fans are upset that the league caught short shrift from the network, again.

At least they didn’t ask any of the NHL players about their dead mothers while they were playing.

Tough Sunday night for ESPN all around.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.


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  1. Every NHL fan knew this was inevitable once ESPN got hockey. But my money was on them freezing the NHL playoffs with the NBA playoffs, which we all know ESPN would have moved the Sox game in order to show the NBA pregame show on ESPN

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