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NHL on ABC logo used from 1999 to 2004
Genre Hockey telecasts
Presented by John Saunders
Gary Thorne
Mike Emrick
Al Michaels
Bill Clement
Jim Schoenfeld
John Davidson
Al Morganti
Barry Melrose
Chris Berman
Steve Levy
Dave Strader
Darren Pang
Brian Engblom
Erin Andrews
Sam Ryan
Theme music composer Bob Christianson
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2 (199294 version)
5 (19992004 version)
7 (total)
Location(s) Various NHL stadiums (game telecasts)
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 180 minutes or until end of game
Production company(s) ABC Sports
Original network ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original release
  • First run: March 27, 1993 (1993-03-27)–May 1, 1994 (1994-05-01)
  • Second run: February 6, 2000 (2000-02-06)
 – June 7, 2004 (2004-06-07)
Related shows ESPN National Hockey Night

The NHL on ABC is the branding formerly used for broadcasts of National Hockey League (NHL) games televised on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in the United States. The network first broadcast NHL games during the 1992–93 season under a time-buy agreement with ESPN; ABC resumed regular season game telecasts on February 6, 2000, as part of a joint contract with ESPN that also gave ABC the rights to select games from each round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.


Before the 1992–93 NHL season[edit]

After being dropped by NBC after the 1974–75 season,[1][2][3] the NHL did not maintain a national television contract in the United States.[4][5][6] In response to this, the league put together a network of independent stations covering approximately 55% of the country.[7][8][9]

Games typically aired on Monday nights[10] (beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time) or Saturday afternoons. The package was offered to local stations without a rights fee.[11] Profits would instead be derived from the advertising, which was about evenly split between the network and the local station. The Monday night games were often billed as "The NHL Game of the Week".[12] Viewers in New York City, Buffalo, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Los Angeles received the Game of the Week on a different station than their local team's games. Therefore, whenever a team had a "home" game, the NHL Network aired the home team's broadcast rather than their own.

Initially, the Monday night package was marketed to ABC affiliates; the idea being that ABC carried NFL football games on Monday nights in the fall and (starting in May 1976) Major League Baseball games on Monday nights in the spring and summer, stations would want the hockey telecasts to create a year-round Monday night sports block; however, very few ABC stations chose to pick up the package.

In 1979, ABC was contracted to televise Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.[13][14] Since the Finals ended in five games, the contract was void.[15] Had there been a seventh game, then Bob Wilson would have called play-by-play alongside Jim McKay (as between-periods host), Bobby Clarke (as color commentator) and Frank Gifford (as reporter, who would have been in the winning team's dressing room to interview players and coaches as well as hand the phone to the winning team's coach that that would have allowed him to talk to both President Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau). The game would have started at 5:10 p.m. Eastern Time on a Saturday, replacing Wide World of Sports and local newscasts that typically followed it on ABC stations in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.

ABC Radio coverage (1989–1991)[edit]

In 1989,[16] the NHL signed a two-year contract (lasting through the 1990–91 season) with ABC Radio for the broadcast rights to the All-Star Game and Stanley Cup Finals.[17][18] ABC Radio named Don Chevrier and Phil Esposito as their main commentating crew.[19][20][21][22]

Time-buy deal with ESPN (1992–1994)[edit]

In the 1992–93[23] and 1993–94 seasons, ABC televised six weekly regional telecasts[24][25] on Sunday afternoons beginning in March[26] (or the last three Sundays[27] of the regular season). This marked the first time that regular season National Hockey League games were broadcast on American network television[28] since 1974–75 (when NBC was the NHL's American broadcast television partner). ABC would then televise three weeks worth of playoff games[29][30] (or the first three Sundays[31][32] of the playoffs[33][34][35][36]). The network did not televise the Stanley Cup Finals, which instead, were televised nationally by ESPN and by Prime Ticket in Los Angeles (1993) and MSG Network in New York (1994). Games televised on ABC were not subject to blackout.

These broadcasts (just as was the case with the 19992004 package) were essentially, time-buys[37] by ESPN.[38][39] In other words, ABC would sell three-hour blocks of airtime to ESPN, which in return, would produce, supply broadcasters and sell advertising. The main difference is that the graphics used for the telecasts were those used by ABC Sports, instead of the ones seen on ESPN National Hockey Night. In later years, the roles would be reversed as ESPN's graphical style would be used on the broadcasts with the exception of intermission reports. ABC even used ESPN's theme music[40] for the 1992–1994 coverage. During ABC's next stint with the NHL, the network used its own theme music.[41]

Overall, ABC averaged a 1.7 rating[42] for those two seasons.

When the NHL television contract went up for negotiation in early 1994, Fox (which was in the process of launching its sports division after acquiring the rights to the National Football Conference of the NFL) and CBS (which was hoping to land a major sports contract to replace the NFL rights that they lost to Fox and Major League Baseball rights that they lost to ABC and NBC) competed heavily for the package. On September 9, 1994, the National Hockey League reached a five-year, US$155 million contract with Fox for the broadcast television rights to the league's games, beginning with the 1994–95 season,[43] effectively ending ABC's time-buy deal with ESPN after just two seasons.

The NHL returns to ABC (1999–2004)[edit]

In August 1998, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 signed a five-year television deal with the NHL, worth a total of approximately US$600 million[44][45] (or $120 million per year). The $120 million per year that ABC and ESPN paid for rights dwarfed the $5.5 million that the NHL received from American national broadcasts in the 1991–92 season.[46] As previously mentioned, as was the case with the 19921994 deal, ABC's subsequent NHL coverage was in reality, made up of time–buys from ESPN. This was noted in copyright beds at the conclusion of the telecasts, i.e. "The preceding program has been paid for by ESPN, Inc." ESPN then signed a similar television rights contract in 2002 so it could produce and broadcast National Basketball Association games on ABC.

This time around, ABC televised four to five weeks worth of regional games on Saturday afternoons beginning in January. ABC also televised the National Hockey League All-Star Game[47] and Games 3–7 of the Stanley Cup Finals[48] in prime time. In the league's previous broadcast television deal with Fox, the network split coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals with ESPN. Games 1, 5 and 7 were usually scheduled to be televised by Fox; Games 2, 3, 4 and 6 by ESPN. However, from 1995 to 1998, the Finals were all four-game sweeps; 1999 ended in six games. The consequence was that – except for 1995, when Fox did televise Game 4 – the decisive game was never on network television.

2003 was the only year that ABC broadcast both the NBA and the Stanley Cup Finals that involved teams from one city in the same year, as both the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils were in their respective league's finals. During ABC's broadcast of Game 3 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Nets in New Jersey on June 8, Brad Nessler, Tom Tolbert and Bill Walton said that ABC was in a unique situation getting ready for both that game and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim the following night, also at Continental Airlines Arena. Gary Thorne, Bill Clement and John Davidson mentioned this the following night, and thanked Nessler, Tolbert and Walton for promoting ABC's broadcast of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.[49]

Following the 2003–04 season, ESPN was only willing to renew its contract for two additional years at $60 million per year.[50] ABC refused to televise the Stanley Cup Finals in prime time, suggesting that the Finals games it would telecast be played on weekend afternoons (including a potential Game 7). Disney executives later conceded that they overpaid for the 1999–2004 deal, so the company's offer to renew the television rights was lower in 2004.[51]

On-air staff[edit]

Studio hosts[edit]

Stanley Cup Finals hosts[edit]

Broadcast teams[edit]


Nielsen ratings[edit]

National Hockey League coverage on ABC owned-and-operated television stations[edit]

Team Stations Years
Philadelphia Flyers WPVI-TV 6 19831986
San Jose Sharks KGO-TV 7 19911994


  1. ^ Frederick C. Klein (March 25, 1977). "Hockey, Violence and Movies". The Wall Street Journal. 
  2. ^ Ross Atkin (June 9, 1975). "Sports check on what's new". Christian Science Monitor. p. 19. 
  3. ^ "5 New Coaches Will Try to Dethrone the Flyers". Los Angeles Times. October 8, 1975. p. D8. 
  4. ^ George Langford (October 5, 1975). "Hockey in battle for TV life!". Los Angeles Times. p. I3. 
  5. ^ Joseph Durso (July 13, 1977). "Problems of Overexpansion Continue to Haunt NBA and NHL". The New York Times. p. A16. 
  6. ^ Robin Herman (June 28, 1977). "NHL's President-Elect Scores Points With His Take-Charge Attitude". The New York Times. p. 24. 
  7. ^ "Holiday TV Hurts Series". The New York Times. December 28, 1975. p. 137. 
  8. ^ "NHL Plans Cup TV; Seeks New York Outlet". The New York Times. March 23, 1976. p. 46. 
  9. ^ Bob Verdi (January 17, 1979). "Hockey needs TV blanket to keep it warm in U.S.". Chicago Tribune. p. E1. 
  10. ^ Gary Deeb (November 9, 1976). "TV hockey back, but no Hawks". Chicago Tribune. p. C2. 
  11. ^ Gary Deeb (February 23, 1979). "SHRINKING ACT". Chicago Tribune. p. E4. 
  12. ^ Don Merry (October 11, 1978). "NHL Starts Tonight: Action but No TV". Los Angeles Times. p. E2. 
  13. ^ "May 26 Selected For a 7th Game". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. May 13, 1979. p. S4. 
  14. ^ "NHL, ABC-TV Agree". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. May 13, 1979. p. 89. 
  15. ^ Donald Ramsay (May 22, 1979). "Montreal win kills ABC TV deal but Ziegler feels pact is on way". The Globe and Mail. p. P35. 
  16. ^ "ABC RADIO GETS STANLEY CUP". Los Angeles Daily News. September 12, 1989. 
  17. ^ Robert Fachet (April 3, 1990). "NOTEBOOK; Regular Season Honors to Bruins; Liut Top Goalie". The Washington Post. p. B08. 
  18. ^ Rob Grant (May 17, 1991). "TV deal offers another chance but CFL needs a career year". Toronto Star. p. C.8. 
  19. ^ Milt Dunnell (July 16, 1989). "Relief role McGwire's dream". Toronto Star. p. G1. 
  20. ^ "Munchies List is Some Food for Thought". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. May 19, 1990. p. B8. 
  21. ^ Rob Grant (May 19, 1990). "Cool Goodyear feels the heat of Indy-scribable media hype". Toronto Star. 
  22. ^ Ken McKee (December 22, 1989). "Palmer heads the short list as replacement for Kubek". Toronto Star. p. B7. 
  23. ^ Steve Wulf (December 27, 1993). "The Network Lineup". Sports Illustrated. 
  24. ^ "NHL governors "ecstatic' over reported TV package". Kitchener-Waterloo Record. August 27, 1992. p. E2. 
  25. ^ E.M. Swift (June 20, 1994). "Hot Not". Sports Illustrated. 
  26. ^ Rudy Martzke (February 5, 1993). "NHL's new boss ready to clear up confusion". USA Today. p. 3C. 
  27. ^ Michael Hiestand (April 28, 1993). "Camera could be newest Derby rider". USA Today. p. 3C. 
  28. ^ Jim Shea (May 7, 1993). "Select few watching NHL on ABC". Hartford Courant. p. E9. 
  29. ^ Michael Heistand (March 4, 1993). "Weighty ESPY awards get lighthearted touch". USA Today. p. 3C. 
  30. ^ Mike Kiley (January 21, 1994). "NHL BOSS FINISHES EVENTFUL 1ST YEAR BETTMAN FOCUSES ON CBS DEAL". Chicago Tribune. p. 3. 
  31. ^ Jorge Milan (May 22, 1993). "NBC WINS WITH LOTTERY, EAST FINALS". Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. p. 7C. 
  32. ^ Ken McKee (April 15, 1994). "TV picture still fuzzy for NHL playoff schedule". Toronto Star. p. E8. 
  33. ^ Randy Covitz (March 6, 1993). "ABC to help showcase NHL with 5 playoff games". Kansas City Star. p. D6. 
  34. ^ Mike Kiley (March 28, 1993). "He's Muni-ficent: Oilers coach lavishes praise on new Hawk". Chicago Tribune. p. 12. 
  35. ^ Joe LaPointe (April 11, 1993). "HOCKEY; N.H.L. Is About to Showcase Lemieux and the Prime-Time Penguins". The New York Times. 
  36. ^ Mike Kiley (April 12, 1993). "Hawks must win Norris to make ABC telecast". Chicago Tribune. p. 11. 
  37. ^ Michael Hiestand (September 3, 1992). "NHL announces TV deal but some details murky". USA Today. p. 3C. 
  38. ^ Craig Davis (August 22, 1992). "TOO MUCH PUNCH RUINS NHL PARTY". Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. p. 1C. 
  39. ^ Rudy Martzke (September 12, 1994). "Fox makes hockey its newest surprise". USA Today. p. 3C. 
  40. ^ NHL on ESPN Theme on YouTube
  41. ^ NHL on ABC full theme on YouTube
  42. ^ Aaron N. Wise and Bruce S. Meyer (1997). International sports law and business, Volume 3. Kluwer Law International. p. 1704. 
  43. ^ Richard Sandomir (September 10, 1994). "Fox Outbids CBS for N.H.L. Games". The New York Times. Retrieved March 20, 2008. 
  44. ^ "Is Disney Goofy To Bid $600 Million For Nhl Tv Rights?". Sports Illustrated. August 17, 1998. 
  45. ^ John Walters (January 10, 2000). "Learning It Cold". Sports Illustrated. 
  46. ^ Richard Sandomir (August 7, 1998). "Best N.H.L. Action Is the Battle Over TV Rights". Retrieved March 20, 2008. 
  47. ^ Kostya Kennedy (February 5, 2001). "The Nhl". Sports Illustrated. 
  48. ^ Pete McEntegart (June 16, 2003). "Under Review". CNN. 
  49. ^ NHL on ABC: Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals (television). ABC Sports. June 9, 2003. 
  50. ^ Rudy Martzke (May 19, 2004). "NHL announces TV deal with NBC". USA Today. Retrieved July 2, 2012. 
  51. ^ Kevin Downey (April 12, 2001). "Sports TV get pricier and pricier. Here's why". Media Life Magazine. 
  52. ^ "BRENON KNOWS HER HOCKEY ABC'S". The Buffalo News. April 17, 1994. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
NHL network broadcast partner
(with NBC) in the United States

Succeeded by
Preceded by
NHL network broadcast partner
in the United States

Succeeded by