How NHL Games Will Be Split Between ESPN, ABC, ESPN+ and Hulu

So, as we inch closer and closer to the 2021-22 NHL regular season, an article appeared on ESPN+ today informing fans on how games will be featured on the Disney platforms.

The season will kick off on over-the-air ESPN and ESPN+ simulcasts featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 PM on October 12. The later game of the doubleheader will be the Seattle Kraken making their NHL debut versus the Vegas Golden Knights.

These games will be the NHL’s return to ESPN since the channel lost the rights to broadcast games to NBC in 2004.

There will be 75 exclusive regular season gaes on EPSN+ and 28 exclusive games on ESPN and ABC. The three platforms will air 103 games total.

ESPN+ and Hulu will air an exclusive-to-the-platform game every Tuesday from October 19 to December 28. ESPN will share a game with Hulu every Friday until the month of January.

Beginning in 2022, ESPN+’s exclusive games will move to Tuesdays andTHursdays.

ESPN, the over-the-air television channel, will air only 18 games throughout the regular season. However, the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, will air on ESPN in early-February.

The All-Star Game itself will air on ABC.

And speaking of ABC, the channel will air ten more games. With one of them being the Thanksgiving Showdown featuring the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks (a nice change of pace from NBC showing Rangers-Bruins every year). That will air on Friday, November 26.

Starting on February 22, ABC will show a weekly “game of the week” on Saturday nights. ABC games will also be simulcast on ESPN+.

The Playoffs will see the Stanley Cup Final being shown on ESPN and ABC. The two channels will also share exclusive coverage of one of the Conference Finals and will show half of all first- and second-round series games. They will split coverage with Turner Sports/TNT.

The Devils will first appear on ESPN+ and Hulu on November 2, 2021 at the Anaheim Ducks as part of a doubleheader with the Buffalo Sabres visiting the San Jose Sharks. The Devils-Ducks games is at 10 PM.

The Devils will do the same thing on November 5 when they visit the Los Angeles Kings at 10:30 PM. That will air on ESPN+ with Ducks versus Arizona Coyotes as the second game.

November 9, the Devils will host the Florida Panthers on ESPN+ and Hulu at 7 PM. Their next game comes on November 26 when they travel to Nashville at 6 PM. Rangers versus Boston actually is the earlier game a 3:30 PM.

November 30 sees the Devils playing host to the Sharks at 7 PM. The Devils then return the favor to the Predators when they face each other in Newark at 7:30 PM on December 10 on ESPN+/Hulu.

The next game on ESPN+/Hulu sees the Devils hosting the Dallas Stars at 7 PM on January 25, 2022.

With the All-Star and Olympic breaks in February, the Devils do not get on the streaming services until March 1 when they travel to Ohio to play the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 PM. That divisional matchup marks the Devils’ final appearance on ESPN+/Hulu for the 2021-22 regular season.

The Devils will not appear on ESPN or ABC as that honor is reserved for the usual suspects.

Subban Works SportsCenter as NHL Analyst

PK Subban, Devils’ defenseman and 2021 finalist for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, has found an offseason gig.

The affable blueliner made his ESPN SportsCenter debut last Wednesday as a NHL analyst for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He will work for ESPN through the end of the playoffs.

The press release put out by the NHL notes that ABC and ESPN, along with “Turner Sports will take over national coverage of the NHL in the United States beginning next season, each signing a seven-year contract. The Stanley Cup Final will alternate between ABC and TNT, televised on ABC in 2022, 2024, 2026 and 2028, and on TNT in 2023, 2025 and 2027.”

In addition, the networks of Disney, “ABC and ESPN will televise 25 exclusive regular-season games each season. TNT and TBS will televise 72, including the NHL Winter Classic, the annual outdoor showcase on New Year’s Day.” ESPN will also “produce 75 national broadcasts each season and stream them on ESPN+ and Hulu, and stream more than 1,000 games each season on ESPN+.”

We have not really touched on the new broadcast contracts here on the blog, but it was confirmed back in May that Wayne Gretzky will be working as a studio analyst on the Turner broadcasts. While not really known as a “big” personality like Subban, Gretzky at least has credentials to his name. What he lacks in charisma, the “Great One” more than makes up for in name value. Even the most casual of hockey fans has heard of Wayne Gretzky. Whether that translates to “must see TV” remains to be seen, but Turner is at least trying to reel in eyeballs to their broadcasts by going for the big names.

Just don’t expect Charles Barkley or Shaq in terms of entertainment value.

Subban’s broadcasting spot on SportsCenter is an early preview of the synergy that the NHL and ESPN/Disney and Turner Sports will be able to provide. Hopefully that will continue and the networks will get bored with the league after a few seasons.

When his playing days are over, no one would make as good a TV personality as Subban. He is a likeable man and can give insight into what is going on on the ice. I can see nobody in the game today who would make a better analyst when he retires.

If Mike Babcock can get a job doing analysis on NBC, with his wooden delivery, then I see no reason to doubt that Subban can do well.

The aforementioned Barkley is a known hockey enthusiast. Shaq has even been honored by the Devils, being a native of Newark. That should help to connect the NHL and NBA, Turner’s main sports properties.

How the networks use their resources will, of course, decide how good the broadcasts are.