We Americans love sports no matter the type. We enjoy sports of every kind ranging from basketball, football, soccer, baseball, hockey to ice hockey. And the love of these sports can be observed in a way that we have dedicated associations and leagues to handle these different genres of sports. Talking about basketball, we have NBA, for football, the NHL is there, MLB for baseball, and NHL for hockey or ice hockey, to be precise. All these sports are associated with different seasons and are broadcasted at a specific time of the year. Currently, it’s that time of the year, which hockey lovers like to call the NHL season.
History of NHL
Ice hockey is a traditional game that is usually played in areas of extremely cold climate, which makes sense since the name “Ice” hockey pretty much establishes it. The origins of ice hockey can be traced back to Canada. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) claims that the first game of ice hockey was played back in 1875 in Montreal, Canada. But there are earlier proofs of hockey played with ice skates back in England in the 1860s. Still, Canada is the country that has mostly contributed to this amazing game. This is another thing that Americans have borrowed from Canada like basketball and peanut butter. By the early 20th century, ice hockey started gaining momentum in the US, as well.
America already had a hockey association by the name of National Hockey Association (NHA), which was founded in 1909. But with the advent of ice hockey, it became so popular in such a short span of time that by 1919, a mere 10 years later, the NHA was succeeded by the National Hockey League (NHL), which is still loved by viewers across the US till today. NHL is a major league that now operates both in Canada and the United States and has a roaster comprising a total of 32 teams out of which 25 teams are from the United States and 7 teams are from Canada.
NHL is a premier and well-established sports league in the world and is part of the major local sports associations like the NBA and NFL. NHL also holds an annual tournament every fall that awards the oldest professional sports trophy, the Stanley Cup, to the winner at the end of every season.
The annual league season of NHL attracts millions of viewers from all over the United States and Canada. The NHL Network that was launched back in 2007 is a channel owned by NHL that shows dedicatedly ice hockey-related content. The network is split into two parts: One is NHL USA, for the audience in the United States, and the other one is NHL Canada for Canadian viewers.
NHL Network was started as a joint venture between NHL and Comcast, and back in 2007, it became the third channel that was owned by a major sports league behind NBA TV and NFL Network. Now, NHL Network is included with cable packages offered by top cable providers in the US. For instance, head to https://www.localcabledeals.com/optimum/cable-tv, and you’ll find NHL as a part of dedicated sports packages, specially designed for sports fans. In 2016, Sling TV became the first over-the-top platform to air the NHL Network. NHL network made a contract with ESPN and Turner Sports (TNT), deciding to broadcast selected games that are not broadcasted by ESPN or TNT.
NHL Season 2021
The 105th season of the NHL is going to begin soon and this season is going to be the biggest one ever with the expansion of the league to 32 teams. This year, NHL is planning to return to its regular screening of October to April, which means a full season compromising of 82 games, unlike last year which was mostly impacted by the pandemic. Under the new National Media Rights agreement of NHL, which was followed by the expiration of their contract with NBC last season, NHL is estimated to cross over the $2 billion mark, which was paid by NBC during their term contract from 2011 to 2021, through this new contract. But because of this new contract, 3.6 million viewers who turn up every year for Stanley Cup are now in distress on where to watch this year’s NHL season. But don’t worry, as we have exclusive details regarding this new media rights contract.
The Walt Disney Networks
Through these new broadcasting rights, ESPN would serve as one of the major broadcasters of NHL for the next seven years. Also, the games would be airing on ESPN’s streaming service ESPN+. This year’s NHL season would also be aired on ABC since ESPN and ABC are owned by the Walt Disney Company. This marks the return of ESPN and ABC to NHL after 15 years since the 2003-2004 season. According to this contract, every year 25 games are going to be aired on ABC or ESPN and 75 exclusive games are going to be aired on ESPN+ and Hulu as well since it’s also owned jointly owned by the Walt Disney Company and Comcast.
Turner Sports Network
Since NHL decided to split the media rights after the previous contract with NBC expired, in the wake of this scenario, NHL announced that the second broadcasting rights holder is going to be Turner Sports this season, which is the sports subsidiary of Warner Media Network. Turner Sports would be able to air NHL games in the United States either on TNT or TBT, which are two major channels by Turner Sports. Apart from that, the streaming rights of all the games would be given to HBO Max, since it’s a direct subsidiary of the Warner Media Network as well.
After NHL’s long journey with NBC that lasted for 16 years ended last season as their official broadcasting partner, NHL signed a new deal with ESPN and Warner Media with a whopping increase of $625 million increase per year. This move is a win-win situation for both NHL and the viewers. Because in times like these, NHL fans have very limited access to stadiums, so it was necessary to expand the scope of the virtual viewer base. Now, viewers have the option to watch the games on their favorite over-the-top services like HBO Max, ESPN+, and Hulu.