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 Versus (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
1979–1982 and 1985–1988 Edit
ESPN initially covered the NHL during the 1979–80, 1980–81 and 1981–82 seasons by making deals with individual teams. This included eleven Hartford Whalers home broadcasts in 1980–81 and 25 the following year. During this time, USA also broadcast National Hockey League games. In order to prevent overexposure, the NHL decided to grant only one network exclusive rights. In April 1982, USA outbid ESPN for the NHL's American national television cable package ($8 million for two years). In 1984, the NHL asked ESPN for a bid, but then gave USA the right to match it, which it did.
After the 1984-85 season, the NHL Board of Governors chose to have USA and ESPN submit sealed bids. ESPN won by bidding nearly $25 million for three years, about twice as much as USA had been paying. The contract called for ESPN to air up to 33 regular season games each season as well as the NHL All-Star game and the Stanley Cup playoffs. The network chose Dan Kelly and Sam Rosen to be the network's first play-by-play announcers, Mickey Redmond and Brad Park were selected to be the first color commentators, and Tom Mees and Jim Kelly were chosen to serve as studio host.ESPN designated Sundays as Sunday Night Hockey, but also aired select midweek telecasts. ESPN aired its first game, an opening-night matchup between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, on October 10, 1985. 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 5 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 2 rounds were non-exclusive, while telecasts in the Conference Finals and Finals were exclusive (except in 1993 and 1994).
|Date||Network||Teams||Start times (All times Eastern)|
|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 New York 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.|
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 (15 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. 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 prime-time.
ESPN has occasionally aired hockey in the years since losing the NHL contract, including occasional college hockey contests and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey (which ESPN acquired after NBCSN, citing conflicts with the 2016 Summer Paralympics among other events, declined to carry). The network has continued to use the National Hockey Night theme song for these broadcasts.
Broadcast teams Edit
ESPN did not have fixed broadcast teams during the 1985–86 season. Sam Rosen, Ken Wilson, Jim Hughson, Dan Kelly, Mike Lange, Jiggs McDonald, Jim Kelly, and Mike Patrick handled the play-by-play and Mickey Redmond, Bill Clement, John Davidson, Phil Esposito, and Brad Park provided color commentary.
Stanley Cup playoffs Edit
|Year||Round||Teams||Games||Play-by-play||Color commentators||Ice level reporters|
|1986||Divisional semifinals||Philadelphia-NY Rangers||Games 4–5||Jim Kelly (Game 4)|
Mike Lange (Game 5)
|Washington-NY Islanders||Game 1||Mike Lange||Bill Clement|
|Montreal-Boston||Game 3||Jim Kelly||Bill Clement|
|Minnesota-St. Louis||Game 2||Ken Wilson||Mickey Redmond|
|Divisional finals||Washington-NY Rangers||Games 1–2, 4–6||Ken Wilson (Games 1, 6)||Mickey Redmond (Game 1)
Bill Clement (Game 2, 4–6)
|Montreal-Hartford||Games 3, 7||Jiggs McDonald (Game 3)
Ken Wilson (Game 7)
|Edmonton-Calgary||Games 2–7||Mike Lange (Games 2, 7)
Jim Hughson (Games 3-6)
|Mickey Redmond||Jim Kelly|
|Conference finals||Montreal-NY Rangers||Games 1-5||Ken Wilson (Games 1, 3)||Mickey Redmond|
|Calgary-St. Louis||Games 1–7||Jim Hughson (Games 1, 3, 5)||Bill Clement|
|1987||Divisional semifinals||Philadelphia-NY Rangers||Games 3–4, 6||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Washington-NY Islanders||Game 7||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement||Tom Mees|
|Hartford-Quebec||Game 5||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Montreal-Boston||Games 1–2||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Divisional finals||Philadelphia-NY Islanders||Games 2, 4–7||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Montreal-Quebec||Game 1||Ken Wilson||Bill Clement|
|Detroit-Toronto||Games 5–7||Tom Mees||Bill Clement|
|Edmonton-Winnipeg||Games 2–4||Rick Peckham (Game 2)|
Sam Rosen (in Winnipeg)
|Conference finals||Philadelphia-Montreal||Games 1–6||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Edmonton-Detroit||Games 1–5||Ken Wilson||Mike Liut|
|1988||Divisional semifinals||NY Islanders-New Jersey||Games 1, 3, 6||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Philadelphia-Washington||Games 2, 4–5, 7||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Divisional finals||Washington-New Jersey||Games 1, 3, 6–7||Sam Rosen||Phil Esposito|
|Montreal-Boston||Games 2, 4–5||Sam Rosen||Phil Esposito|
|Detroit-St. Louis||Games 2, 5||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
|Edmonton-Calgary||Games 1, 3–4||Bruce Buchanan (Game 1)|
Mike Emrick (Games 3–4)
|Conference finals||Boston-New Jersey||Games 1–7||Sam Rosen||Phil Esposito|
|Edmonton-Detroit||Games 1–5||Mike Emrick||Bill Clement|
Studio personalities Edit
- Chris Berman: Host (2002–04)
- John Buccigross: Host (1998–2004)
- Ray Ferraro: Analyst (2002–04)
- E.J. Hradek: Insider
- Steve Levy: Host (1993–2004)
- Tom Mees: Host (1985–88, 1992–93)
- Barry Melrose: Analyst (1996–2004)
- Al Morganti: Analyst (1993–2004)
- Bill Patrick: Host
- Bill Pidto: Host (1995–1998)
- John Saunders: Host (1992–2004)