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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, John Davidson and Mickey Redmond were selected to be the first color commentators, and Tom Mees was chosen to serve as studio host while Jim Kelly was chosen as the reporter. 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 utilized the broadcast teams for 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. Mike Emrick and Bill Clement served as the main broadcast team. 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.

1992–2004 Edit

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).

1994-95 Edit

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, and Jiggs McDonald handled the play-by-play and Mickey Redmond, Bill Clement, John Davidson, Gary Green, Paul Steigerwald, and Peter McNab provided color commentary.

Season Broadcasters
1986-87
  1. Mike Emrick-Bill Clement
  2. Sam Rosen-Mickey Redmond or Tom Mees-John Davidson
  3. Ken Wilson-Mike Liut
1987-88
  1. Mike Emrick-Bill Clement
  2. Sam Rosen-Phil Esposito
1992–93
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Tom Mees-John Davidson, Brian Engblom or Darren Pang
1993–94
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Tom Mees-John Davidson
  3. Sean McDonough-Brian Engblom
1994–95
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Tom Mees-Brian Engblom
  3. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
1995–96
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Tom Mees-Brian Engblom
  3. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
1996–97
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Dave Strader-Darren Pang
  3. Steve Levy-Brian Engblom
1997–98
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
1998–99
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
  4. Jack Edwards-Jim Schoenfeld
  5. Dave Ryan-Joe Micheletti
  6. Joe Beninati-Tony Twist
1999–2000
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
  4. Jack Edwards-Jim Schoenfeld
  5. Dave Ryan-Joe Micheletti
  6. Joe Beninati-Neil Smith
  7. Sean McDonough-Tony Twist
2000–01
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
  4. Jack Edwards-Jim Schoenfeld
  5. Dave Ryan-Joe Micheletti
  6. Joe Beninati-Neil Smith
2001–02
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement
  2. Steve Levy-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
  4. Jack Edwards-Jim Schoenfeld
  5. Dave Ryan-Joe Micheletti
  6. Joe Beninati-Neil Smith
2002–03
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement-John Davidson
  2. Steve Levy-Barry Melrose-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
  4. Dave Ryan-Joe Micheletti
  5. Joe Beninati-Neil Smith
2003–04
  1. Gary Thorne-Bill Clement-John Davidson
  2. Steve Levy-Barry Melrose-Darren Pang
  3. Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
  4. Dave Ryan-Joe Micheletti
  5. Joe Beninati-Neil Smith

Stanley Cup Playoffs 1986-88 Edit

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators Ice level reporters
1986 Divisional semifinals Philadelphia-New York Rangers Games 4–5 Jim Kelly (Game 4)
Mike Lange (Game 5)
Mickey Redmond
Washington-New York Islanders Game 1 Mike Lange Paul Steigerwald
Montreal-Boston Game 3 Jim Hughson Gary Green
Minnesota-St. Louis Game 2 Ken Wilson Herb Brooks
Divisional finals Washington-New York Rangers Games 1–2, 4–6 Jiggs McDonald Mickey Redmond (Game 1)

Peter McNab (Games 2, 4–6)

Montreal-Hartford Games 3, 7 Jiggs McDonald Peter McNab
Edmonton-Calgary Games 2–7 Mike Lange (Games 2, 7)

Jim Hughson (Games 3–6)

Mickey Redmond Jim Kelly
Conference finals Montreal-New York Rangers Games 1–5 Ken Wilson (Games 1, 3)

Jiggs McDonald (Game 2)
Mike Lange (Games 4–5)

Mickey Redmond
Calgary-St. Louis Games 1–7 Jim Hughson (Games 1, 3, 5)

Mike Lange (Game 2)
Ken Wilson (Games 4, 6)
Sam Rosen (Game 7)

Bill Clement
1987 Divisional semifinals Philadelphia-New York Rangers Games 3–4, 6 Mike Emrick (Games 3, 6)

Ken Wilson (Game 4)

Bill Clement
Washington-New York 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-New York Islanders Games 2, 4–7 Mike Emrick (Games 2, 4–5, 7)
Ken Wilson (Game 6)
Bill Clement
Montreal-Quebec Game 1 Ken Wilson Mike Liut
Detroit-Toronto Games 5–7 Sam Rosen (Game 5)

Tom Mees (Games 6–7)

John Davidson
Edmonton-Winnipeg Games 2–4 Sam Rosen Mickey Redmond
Conference finals Philadelphia-Montreal Games 1–6 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
Edmonton-Detroit Games 1–5 Ken Wilson Mike Liut
1988 Divisional semifinals New York 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)

Bill Clement
Conference finals Boston-New Jersey Games 1–7 Sam Rosen Phil Esposito Matt Lauer
Edmonton-Detroit Games 1–5 Mike Emrick Bill Clement

Studio personalities Edit

  • Chris Berman: Host (2002–04)
  • John Buccigross: Host (1998–2004)
  • Brian Engblom: Analyst (1992–2004)
  • 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)
  • Darren Pang: Analyst (1992–2004)
  • Bill Patrick: Host
  • Bill Pidto: Host (1995–1998)
  • John Saunders: Host (1992–2004)

Reporters Edit

  • Erin Andrews (2004)
  • Brenda Brenon (1994)
  • Brian Engblom (1992–2002)
  • Jim Kelly (1985–86)
  • Matt Lauer (1987–88)
  • Steve Levy (1992–2004)
  • Tom Mees (1986–87, 1992–93)
  • Al Morganti (1992–2002)
  • Sam Ryan (2002–04)
  • Darren Pang (1995–2004)

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