from Chris Smith of Forbes,
Many are hoping that, in addition to making NHL stars available to American viewers, ESPN’s deal might also be a sign that the network will finally begin covering hockey in other formats. The “Worldwide Leader” has famously avoided hockey coverage in the past, and the NHL still goes without mention on SportsCenter despite the league being on the verge of cancelling regular season games (meanwhile, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s Twitter coverage of last night’s Bears-Cowboys game gets a full breakdown).
The theory is that ESPN will be more inclined to give the sport broader coverage if it has an actual investment in hockey’s popularity. In other words, more hockey coverage could translate to more hockey viewers on ESPN3. Unfortunately, that optimism is likely misplaced. There is little sense in covering the European hockey league when American KHL viewership is minimal and NHL players’ tenures are temporary. Also consider that ESPN3 has been streaming the ICC’s World T20 cricket tournament since mid-September; when’s the last time you caught a cricket highlight on ESPN?
This isn’t to complain, of course. It’s welcome news that ESPN will stream the KHL adventures of hockey’s top playmakers, and it’s even somewhat enjoyable that the NHL and NHLPA are forced to watch another group – especially one that has a contentious history with the league – profit on their protracted negotiations. So let’s simply enjoy our overseas glimpse a tentertaining hockey, just don’t expect it to have any great impact on the sport’s popularity.