ESPN National Hockey Night

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For the SNES game named after this ESPN program, see ESPN National Hockey Night (video game).
ESPN National Hockey Night

Gary Thorne
Bill Clement
John Davidson
Erin Andrews

see below
Country of origin United States
Running time 180+ minutes
Original network ESPN (1992–2004)
ESPN2 (1993–2004)
Related shows NHL on ABC
NHL 2Night

ESPN National Hockey Night was ESPN's weekly television broadcasts of National Hockey League regular season games and coverage of playoff games, broadcast from 1992 to 2004. ESPN had been slated to broadcast games for the 2004–05 NHL season, but the season's cancellation combined with the NHL reaching an agreement with OLN (now NBCSN) to broadcast games for the 2005–06 NHL season effectively ended National Hockey Night after the 2003–04 NHL season.

Coverage overview[edit]

1980–1982 and 1985–1988[edit]

ESPN initially and previously covered the NHL in the 1980–81 and 1981–82 seasons.[1] They had a rather limited slate of games, which were all broadcast from U.S. arenas: Hartford, Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Minnesota, St. Louis and Colorado in 1980–81 and the New York Islanders (while deleting Hartford) in 1981–82. ESPN covered a selected amount of playoff games in 1982. They covered Game 4 of the New York Islanders-Pittsburgh series and Game 2 of the Minnesota-Chicago series. Sam Rosen and Pete Stemkowski were the announcers for both games.

ESPN would next broadcast the NHL in 1985–86, taking over from the USA Network in the American national cable television rights. ESPN aired approximately 33 weekly (Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time), nationally televised (albeit, subject to blackout) regular season games a year (as well as the All-Star Game and entire Stanley Cup Finals). Sam Rosen,[2] Mike Emrick[3] and Ken Wilson[4] served as the play-by-play men while Mickey Redmond[5] and Bill Clement[6] were the analysts. ESPN would ultimately go on another hiatus (lasting through the end of the 1991–92 season) from the National Hockey League following the 1987–88 season, when SportsChannel America outbid them.


From its debut in 1992 until the 2001–02 NHL season, weekly regular season games were broadcast on Sundays (between NFL and baseball seasons), Wednesdays, and Fridays, and were titled Sunday/Wednesday/Friday Night Hockey. Prior to 1999, these telecasts were non-exclusive, meaning they were blacked out in the regions of the competing teams, and an alternate game was shown in these affected areas. Beginning in 1999–2000 season, ESPN was permitted two exclusive telecasts per team per season. When ESPN started broadcasting NBA games on Wednesday and Friday nights in 2002, the weekly hockey broadcasts were moved to Thursday and the broadcasts renamed to Thursday Night Hockey. Beginning in 1993–94, up to five games per week were also shown on ESPN2 (dubbed "Fire on Ice").

During the Stanley Cup playoffs, ESPN and ESPN2 provided almost nightly coverage, often carrying games on both channels simultaneously. Games in the first two rounds were non-exclusive, while telecasts in the Conference Finals and Finals were exclusive (except in 1993 and 1994).


Main article: 1994–95 NHL season
Date Network Teams Start times (All times Eastern) Commentator crews
2/5/95 ESPN Pittsburgh at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
3/19/95 ESPN Boston at New Jersey 8:00 p.m.
3/22/95 ESPN2 New Jersey at N.Y. Rangers 7:30 p.m.
4/1/95 ESPN2 Montreal at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
4/26/95 ESPN2 Pittsburgh at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.

OLN/Versus replaces ESPN[edit]

Before the 2004–05 lockout, the NHL had reached two separate deals with NBC (who would replace ABC as the NHL's American national broadcast television partner) and ESPN. ESPN offered the NHL $60 million for about 40 games (only fifteen of which would be during the regular season), all on ESPN2, with presumably, only some midweek playoff games, the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final and the All-Star Game airing on ESPN.[7] The NBC deal stipulated that the network would pay the league no rights fees - an unheard of practice to that point. NBC's deal included six regular season windows, seven postseason broadcasts and Games 3–7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in primetime. The contracts were to commence when the lockout ended. The NBC deal expired after the 2006–07 season, and NBC had picked up the option to renew for the 2007–08 season (Just like the AFL/NBC agreement, which the network did not renew in 2006). The NHL and NBC shared in revenues from advertising.

ESPN had a two year deal that they opted out of after the lockout, leaving the NHL without a cable partner. In August 2005, Comcast (who owns the Philadelphia Flyers) paid $70 million a year for three years to put games (54 or more NHL games each season under the agreement, generally on Monday and Tuesday nights) on the OLN network, which was later known as Versus, and finally became NBCSN. Due to the abbreviated off-season, the 2005–06 schedule did not offer OLN exclusivity, which they received in 2006–07. Versus would also cover the playoffs and exclusively air Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.



  2. ^ "Sam Rosen". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  3. ^ "Mike Emrick". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  4. ^ "WCCBL hires Ken Wilson. Former Mariners broadcaster to lead League". March 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  5. ^ "Mickey Redmond". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  6. ^ "Many losses, big problems for Rangers". December 3, 1999. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  7. ^ Lepore, Steve (4 August 2010). "The Suitor Tutor, Part 1: On VERSUS and NBC, How Have They Done, and Where the Merger Will Take Them". Puck The Media. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 

External links[edit]