The Situationist

Negative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes?

Posted by Jason Chung on July 2, 2007

Is Hockey Down and Out?

It is without hyperbole that one can argue that ESPN is killing the National Hockey League. By creating and reinforcing an expectation of failure regarding the NHL, ESPN is shaping public perception and contributing to the “death” of the NHL in the United States.

At first glance, the argument that ESPN has the power to “kill” anyHow much Influence does ESPN have? major sport may appear sensationalist. However, the impact of ESPN on the average American sports fan can be easily underestimated. As the first national sports television network, ESPN has developed a loyal following and widespread credibility among sports fans — so much so that it can brand itself The Worldwide Leader in Sports without appearing too self-aggrandizing or sensational. Via a combination of business savvy, competent self-promotion, and responsible coverage of major sporting events, ESPN has more than lived up to its promise and is now the first choice for sports news in over 100 million U.S. homes. The network’s commentators and personalities have become larger than life and the de facto sources of sports information and expertise.

While ESPN’s stock has been rising, there can be little debate that the NHL’s stock has been dropping on ESPN. Since the NHL made the questionable decision to abandon the cable network as its broadcast partner in favor of the fledgling Versus network, many have argued that NHL coverage on the Worldwide Leader in Sports has ranged from underwhelming to disrespectful. Even ESPN’s ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, felt compelled to examine hockey coverage on the network. In an article last month, she confirmed that hockey coverage has indeed diminished 28% on Sportscenter over the last three years and that hockey-oriented shows such as NHL 2Night were cut altogether since ESPN’s loss of NHL rights.

The reduced exposure on ESPN can only be harmful to the NHL. By minimizing coverage and highlights, the network is effectively reducing the imprint of the game on Americans’ collective sports consciousness. Worse still, several ESPN writers and commentators have gone out of their way to emphasize the demise of hockey. Le Ann Schreiber recently noted that during the NHL’s regular season, hockey was only mentioned on-air if there happened to be “some egregious brawl” or if it was being “dissed” for its invisibility and irrelevance.

In sharp contrast to the treatment of the NHL, ESPN favorites such as NASCAR face little scrutiny and massive hype. Once a niche sport with limited appeal, NASCAR is ESPN’s new hot property and has found itself to be the chief beneficiary of the network’s downgrading of hockey. Northwest News Group columnist Kevin Kaduk notes that since ESPN’s purchase of NASCAR broadcast rights, the network has been force-feeding the sport to its readers via its various news outlets. Indeed in January 2007, ESPN senior vice president Jed Drake explicitly promised as much. Unlike its coverage of the NHL, ESPN has shown remarkable patience with NASCAR as evidenced by its burying or putting a positive spin on negative NASCAR news such as that of falling TV ratings for the sport.

Specific examples of the anti-hockey bias are rampant. Recently Mike Greenberg of Mike & Mike defended the lack of hockey coverage on his show by asserting that there is a “general Mike Greenberglack of interest in the sport” and that that was just “the reality of it.” Popular writer Bill Simmons publicly gave up on hockey and his Boston Bruins in 2001. Granted, he thought about giving hockey another chance after the lockout in 2005, but has since written about hockey only sporadically but then mostly to mock it. In fact, since Simmons’s 2005 column, he has only written one article dealing extensively with hockey – his running diary of the 2007 NHL entry draft, which is dripping in sarcasm. In his last few lines he states that “This league needs all the help it can get” and that “… I’ll see you in 12 months for the 2008 draft. And not a second before.” Simmons’s caustic sign-off underscores his view that the NHL remains in jeopardy and is worthy of viewing only for unintentional comedic effect. Hockey, according to ESPN, is a punch-line.

Surely, ESPN’s attitude towards hockey influences its audience. Herbert C. Kelman of Harvard University notes that there are three source characteristics necessary to persuade others and change their attitudes: the source’s (1) expertise, (2) trustworthiness, and (3) power. Of course, ESPN scores a hat trick by (1) regularly hosting a series of experts on various sporting subjects, (2) hosting several hard-news sports programs, and (3) attracting sports’ heavy hitters to its airwaves. Thus, ESPN can exert informational and normative social influence on sports fans who, like the rest of us, seek consensus and conformity far more than we realize. As Situationist contributor Sung Hui Kim notes, this motive for conformity exists among peers and groups of many types, including otherwise adversarial lawyers.

Informational social influence most frequently occurs when there is ambiguity regarding a situation or when there is a crisis. In those times, people tend to defer to those more knowledgeable than them for obvious reasons. The “experts'” conclusions are readily internalized, or in other words are accepted as correct and become part of the person’s internal belief system. In those situations, notes Kelman, experts exert great influence.

It seems likely that the aftermath of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout was such a situation. Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star noted that the NHL was in a critical state at the time, looking to reconnect with alienated casual fans. As hockey agent Larry Rauch said, retrieving those fans will require a “protracted effort from everyone in the game.” Given that crisis, many fans probably depend on ESPN unconsciously as a source of information regarding whether the sport is worthy of their time, loyalty, and dollars. Instead of reassurance that the NHL, like the NBA, NFL, and MLB, will rebound from its own dark era, ESPN experts continue to question the strength and relevance of the league and choose to cut its coverage of hockey instead. ESPN’s coverage, or lack there of, implicates the NHL’s viability.

To make matters worse, such informational social influence can translate into normative social influence, which is born of the need to “conform to the rules of other people.” If it seems that a growing number of people dislike hockey or that being a hockey fan exposes one to ridicule, many will hide, ignore, or lose their affection for hockey.

Thus, the network’s negative portrayal of hockey is very likely causing a profound two-fold effect on the viewing public by prejudicing their perception of the facts and by affecting their feelings for the game.

Mike Greenberg, Bill Simmons, and the others may object to the statement thBill Simmonsat they are killing hockey and would likely point to two recent events to suggest that I am killing the messenger. First, they might point out that even NBC preempted the crucial Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals so that it could instead broadcast the pre-race coverage of the Preakness Stakes even after the NHL bent over backwards to accommodate NBC’s scheduling wishes. Second, they might note that the enthusiasm for the Stanley Cup Finals that followed was so underwhelming that Game 3 between the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks reached an all-time low prime-time rating of 1.1.

Simply looking at these events and ignoring NHL successes, however, would be an example of confirmation bias where one searches out or interprets new information that confirms one’s preconceptions – in this instance that of the NHL’s demise.

But reports of hockey’s death are greatly exaggerated. Professional hockey is doing relatively well in both its traditional and non-traditional markets. Financially speaking, the NHL’s has rebounded since its disastrous lockout during the 2004-2005 season. Television ratings may be down nationally but the NHL’s attendance figures are still relatively strong with record crowds attending games this past January. Indeed, the NHL’s attendance figures, while lower, are somewhat comparable to those of the NBA – a league widely hailed as successful by sportswriters. In addition, franchise values have gone up markedly since the lockout allowed league owners to break the players’ union (the NHLPA) and implement a favorable new collective bargaining agreement which included, among other features, a hard salary cap. As Eric McErlain details on Off Wing Opinion, prospective owners such as Jim Balsillie and an ownership group in Kansas City have been chomping at the bit to introduce hockey to new markets via re-location of struggling franchises after paying a hefty premium for the privilege.

Talent-wise, it can likewise no longer be said that the NHL is comprised of a bunch of Canadians and Europeans, as American players have been improving over the years. In fact, in the past NHL entry draft, American players were selected numbers 1 and 2 and, in total, U.S. players accounted for a record 30% of all players selected. Due to the fact that more American children than ever are playing hockey (with over 14,000 youth hockey players in Southern California alone) this talent influx of Americans to the NHL doesn’t appear to be in danger of dropping anytime soon. Expectations are that American superstars will help grow the league.

Lest this author be accused of suffering from his own confirmation bias as well, I will concede the point that all is not rosy with the NHL. The league may be over-expanded, under-funded, and poorly marketed. While Versus’ commitment to hockey may flatter NHL executives, the network resides in the cable wilderness and is available in many fewer homes than is ESPN. We will never know if hockey can eventually recover in the United States, however, if ESPN continues its de facto campaign against the game.

101 Responses to “Negative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes?”

  1. crackhead said

    it is espn’s fault because your commish sucks nuts. you and your ilk were jumping for joy when espn lost the contract and you called them every name under the sun. you said hockey was better without espn.

    now that even die hard fans think your sport is bs, that is espn’s fault?

  2. bruha said

    I can see Crackhead is aptly named.

  3. crackhead said

    thank you, i try my hardest to live up to that name.

  4. 2+2=5 said

    Anybody who argued that the NHL was better without ESPN did not appreciate the broader ramifications by going with ANY other network, not just one with fewer households and with iffy sports coverage.

    If an NHL game is on ESPN or ESPN2 with SportsCenter — a highly rated show — following, people will tune in for the game to end to see that show. Moreover, if the shootout was as marketable as the NHL says it is, viewers would be watching that while waiting for the news program. This is how viewership is built. Now, the NHL is hoping bull riding fans are waiting for the rodeo to start as they watch another riveting Carolina-Tampa matchup.

    Once again the NHL brass gets it wrong. For further proof of this:

  5. Even before the lockout, the NHL was getting pushed out by ESPN. They were under-promoting the league in the final season, and NHL 2Night had been flat out canceled, lockout or not.

    Crackhead, who is this “we” you speak of? I don’t recall many of my fellow hockey fans gloating over the Versus deal. (I’m assuming that your “I’m making fun of hockey! Can I have a cookie?” attitude means that you’re not a hockey fan.)

    2 + 2 = 5, have you actually seen Versus’ NHL schedule? They don’t seem to be interested in any game that doesn’t involve Pittsburgh, Philly, Buffalo, Rangers, or Detroit.

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  9. DonK said

    The points in this article are well-taken. But here’s the other side of the equation: Does ESPN want hockey?

    As Keith Russell notes, ESPN was scaling down its hockey coverage in its last season (2003-04). The network made little effort to keep the NHL after the lockout and seems very content to bathe us in poker and college hoops for most of the winter.

    So what can the NHL do?

    1) Work out a share-the-profits deal with ESPN. The $2M/$3M the teams are getting from Versus isn’t worth the lost exposure. In return, make sure “NHL 2Night” or a similar replacement is included in the package. Like it or not, the NHL has to realize that the “Worldwide Leader In Sports,” for all of its numerous flaws and foibles, is still the big dog in sports coverage — and it has to be on there.

    2) Make the league and teams as media-friendly as possible. newspapers in particular have found that they can get away with cutting back on coverage (especially road games), save money and not take heat from readers. The league and the teams have to work to get back that coverage. This includes working with bloggers, expanding Web site operations (the league is going with team sites) and working to get the NHL Network onto US cable systems.

    3) Realizing that while the NHL is a $2.3 billion (or so) business, it’s still a niche sport. Its fans are the most loyal in sports; there just aren’t enough of them.

  10. Cousin B said

    Right on the money- with one exception;

    ESPN dumped the NHL. Turned them down for renewal. Dropped
    it like a hot rock. That’s why Versus ended up in the mix.
    The NHL didn’t pass on ESPN, they were literally thrown
    out in favor of more basketball.

    ESPN had already reduced NHL games by more than half the
    moment they signed with the NBA.

    They want to kill hockey because they think it reaches a
    shallow demographic compared to basketball and NASCAR.

    Furthermore, this is all over adveertising dollars and by
    letting the news department run rampamt with hate they are sidestepping the blame for dumping a major sport over a
    few bucks.

    Bettman should have offered them a partnership including
    right to the NHL Network in the US.

    Both are true- Bettman is ruining the league and ESPN hates
    the sport entirely.

  11. Wingnut said

    What has truly contributed to this “demise” of Hockey is the simple fact that NBA “equipment sponsors” such as Nike, RBK, and Adidas benefit greatly from the expanded coverage that their endorsers receive, and Shoe sales have contributed greatly to Espn’s contemptuous treatment of sports that compete for coverage and airtime.

    Once Walt Disney company sold the Mighty Ducks, they no longer were invested in the success of the NHL, and have deliberately squeezed hockey coverage off of the broadcast landscape.

    How did all of this come about?
    Point directly to Sterns’ recommendation that his protege Bettman be hired, and Bettmans willful destruction of the League.

  12. Cousin B said

    One more thing.


    This ‘niche’ argument is really disturbing. It only first
    appeared during the lockout and is already accepted as a

    It was never true. Nothing at the arena level can be called
    a niche. 10-20,000 people are a major audience.

    I once commented on a board that hockey was like Bob Seger-
    just because the press wasn’t talking about him didn’t mean
    he wasn’t still major. A fellow poster countered that he
    thought of Seger as a niche artist- ‘not going to sell out
    the Garden’ (MSG).

    One month later, Seger sold out the Garden.

    Just because a couple of TV pundits run their mouths
    and turn away doesn’t make something disappear.

    Hockey still is and always was a major pro sport in the US,
    no matter who says otherwise.

    Lacrosse, Curling, Rugby- THOSE are niche sports.

    Not hockey. It’s major. Period.

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  14. Sportsattitude said

    Whether it be sports, movies, tv shows, politicians or the evening news, whatever is being advertised, shown or covered is what those who are in control of the dollars want you to think is “hot”, “newsworthy,” etc. From what I have read, ESPN was prepared to park the NHL on ESPN2 in a minimal yet consistent role but the hockey honchos turned up their nose at that and marched off to Versus. They never learned their lesson from their wretched past with SportsChannel. If you want to “look major,” you stick with ESPN, even if you have to pay them to show your sport. Like them or not, and like the fact all of a sudden Arena Football is legitimate and NASCAR gets as much airtime as Major League Baseball, ESPN isn’t going anywhere and all these sports leagues best learn how to play nice with them… for now. Don’t worry – pay-per-view for all sporting events is not that far off.

  15. crackhead said

    don’t believe me, go look at hockey message boards.

  16. How to get your food spit in said

    I’m not a huge fan of ESPN but you can’t blame them for this. Hockey is unwatchable on TV. It’s GREAT live. Plus a little thing called a lockout didn’t help either…

  17. 92Penguins said

    I’m sick of ESPN Nick Saban-ing the NHL

  18. Joshua said

    CousinB and DonK: Citing attendance figures as a sign of the NHL’s health is soooo last millennium. TV ratings are the gold standard for all sports now.

    On the other hand, by that same standard, we’re rapidly getting to the point where, except for the NFL and maybe MLB, all the so-called “major” pro leagues are basically niche sports, and even the NFL and MLB don’t dominate to the same degree they once did. The American sports marketplace is just too crowded nowadays for any one competitor to be a clear-cut favorite. It’s sort of like the way the relatively few number of world-class pro poker players have been drowned out by a sea of part-timers and amateurs at the World Series of Poker (which, of course, is another event that has gained stature on ESPN at the NHL’s expense).

  19. KauaiBoy said

    Much like its parent ABC, ESPN plays to an agenda and has tried to create the perception that hockey is unwatchable and undeserving of one’s attention. This works on the ignorant who believe that there really are sports “experts”. To the true sports fan, the talking heads on ESPN are no more knowledgeable than the lovable drunk at the end of the bar. They only opine about what they are seeing or how things will play out on paper—-any one of us can do their “job”. Another great example of this is ESPN Red Sox zealot Peter Gammons comments this past year after an on ice incident that “this is why hockey is not a major sport….”.

    The shilling for the NBA is a clear example of their agenda—if there was ever a more unwatchable sport than basketball they would call it golf. ESPN has tried to make news out of a tediously long regular season, meaningless playoffs and finals (see those ratings!!),a draft of no near term significance and an obsession on what Kobe is gonna do next. This is driven by their contract and a desire to seem hip with young Americans (the only ones who seem to watch the NBA anymore, but who buy every Nike Adidas Reebok product out there).

    True hockey fans don’t look to ESPN for coverage of the game they passionately follow. The non stop action of the game is especially addictive on high definition TV which I see as crucial to furthering interest in the NHL. I don’t look to the MSM as to who to vote for or what political agenda I should follow, sad to see that ESPN has matured into another non objective business venture. I guess I shouldn’t expect coverage of Australian Rules Football anytime soon—-now there’s a manly sport for you!!!!

  20. Flyers said

    The NFL doesn’t dominate? Look at TV ratings, attendance figures, media coverage or whatever you want. America loves the NFL. Look at how successful NFL Network is. NBATV (which as far as I know is the only other network in the US devoted entirely to one league) doesn’t even come close. I love football, but the constant buzz even during the off season is really annoying.

    What really ticks me off is ESPN taking poker, darts, hot dog eating and fishing over hockey. Do people really consider these sports? Then they cover the NFL in MAY and JUNE, puff up the NBA, IRL, and NASCAR, and obsess over the Yankees like they are the only team in the MLB. This is what ESPN has chosen over hockey. What a joke. Great blog entry!

  21. badanswerman said

    ESPN is the culprit? I think not. How about one little ting no one as mentioned…the NHL playoff system has become so extended, they now crown their champion in late May or early June, when it is over 80 degrees in over 1/3 of the country and in the upper 70’s in almost all of the rest. No one is thinking about ice (except in their coolers) this time of year. I remember when the Stanley cup was awarded in the middle of April, where at least in the northeast and Canada, it was still cool outside in the evenings. Tell the truth…if it is 82, sunny, 30% humidity on a Saturday afternoon, May 30 are you most likely considering…. 1. mowing the grass, getting in the pool with the kids, and firing up the BBQ or…..2. sitting in the den with big screen on, watching Ottowa play Buffalo (no slight intended toward either franchise)in gane 2 of the Stanly Cup.
    The NHL as a myriad of other problems, but “summer hockey” is helping it’s slow death.

  22. badanswerman said

    Sorry about the typos…my “H” key is a little sluggish

  23. Broadway Joe said

    Everyone is involved in the decline of the NHL. The players and owners were on the road to apocalypse for years, and did nothing to avert it. ESPN declined to renew its contract with the NHL for one very good reason: in the midst of the lockout, would it ever come back? By the time Bettman pounded the players into submission, ESPN had long since abandoned what they considered a sinking ship. Could the sale of the Anaheim Ducks have influenced ESPN’s hand? Who knows. Comcast’s Outdoor Life Network (now Versus) hoped that the bargain-basement acquisition of the NHL’s rights would kickstart the channel’s rebirth, and subsequent addition into markets beyond those controlled by Comcast. That has happened for the most part, but the league’s long absence simply made most viewers outside of NHL markets forget the league ever existed. ESPN didn’t help the situation buy constantly criticizing the league for its dismal TV exposure and calling for the league to return to ESPN (though it was ESPN that jumped ship, not the other way around). And the final fact is that hockey just isn’t that television-friendly. I love watching hockey live, but the energy of a good hockey crowd just doesn’t translate to television. The NHL is just going to have to survive yet another downturn, like it did when the rapid expansion of the 60’s and 70’s went bust. But I don’t think it will ever fully recover outside of its own markets, mostly out of its own incompetence and hubris. I’ll wager that the NHL will probably be down to 20 teams within 10 years, possibly even fewer.

  24. Charles Andrews said

    ESPN didn’t kill the NHL. Bettman and the owners did that. They cancelled an entire season on the grounds that salaries were out of control and teams were failing. Teams weren’t competive. The Sabres just gav a third year player $7 mil. per year after losing two players to the NYR for similar money. Why did we lose a whole seasonif the teams continue to spend money like sailors at whore houses and the league is no more competitive than before.

    Hockey has an avid fan base that actually go to the games. It’s not a sport people in Fl, AZ, CA, TN or TX get in masses so why go there?

    Bettman needs to go. Someone who can get the best minimal deal with network and, yes ESPN, needs to be in charge. Gary Bettman and the owners killed the sport not ESPN.

  25. R. L. Williams said

    Anybody who lets the EASTERN SEABOARD PROGRAMING NETWORK do their sports thinking for them should not be allowed to breed or vote. How can you take seriously the thoughts of SKIPPY ‘Peanut Butter for Brains’ Bayless, Jay ‘Eddie Munster’ Moronarty, Mike ‘Meaningless’ Greenberg. As for baseball shill Peter Gammons the NHL may not be big it is not a PHONY sport like BaseBall. Unless you consider records broken by HGH and steriods legitamite! As for Barry Melrose he may know the game but on ESPN he acts like a spineless jellyfish defending it. We have never seen him go head on and call out Hockey’s critics and their hypocrisy.

  26. Vince - Canuck in the USA said

    ESPN’s stance isn’t the blame for the lack of interest in this country, but it is a big reason why the game will never progress in popularity. The weather, many other ‘national sports’ are the reason why a foreign game played on ice will never flourish. Besides, their commentators were like fish out of water. They had little to no color to add because they didn’t know the game. Kind of like the Commish. It’s a shame that the true hockey lovers in Minnesota and the Northeast have to endure the 10 second blips on ESPN. Head north of the border, where there is only one true pastime, and you’ll get 20 minutes of hockey and 10 minutes of the rest. Now we’re talking…

  27. james austin said

    the solution for the short term would be to go to single game series like the nfl. this would shorten the season create stronger competition and desire to win. it also would put more importance on games lost. therefore creating more interest in the sport as a whole and building popularity. this is why the nfl is popular. its almost like an addiction. at first it would cut revenues but as people realized what it was about they’d want to watch knowing their team could loose one game and not make the playoffs. copy cat the nfl. its worth a shot if they want to save hockey. id have more desire to watch.

  28. R. L. Williams said

    Your idea has no merit Hockey is not football, thank god.

  29. Charles, read this post from Fanhouse before you call the cap a failure. The Rangers could easily be the first NHL team to join the 49ers and Titans in Salary Cap Hell.

  30. Mr. Fish said

    Rather than just the NHL, it’s important to note ESPN’s ability to “make” or “break” any sport or league.

    Does Arena Football have enough fans to warrant game highlights on SportsCenter or stats in “ESPN Bottom Line” tickers? Probably not, but the network, 50% owner of the league, has pledged to help grow the sport. Why wouldn’t it take every step to promote the league and its, um, stars?

    As a soccer fan, I’m overjoyed that ESPN ponied up the cash for a weekly MLS match in HD on ESPN2. I love that soccer highlights are shown on SportsCenter, though I’m offended that soccer reports are “ghetto-ized” in the “ESPN Deportes” segment. The precious exposure is to be celebrated, though, I’m certainly aware that the majority of fans couldn’t care less about soccer.

    As the all-encompassing sports behemoth, ESPN serves only its own interests, rather those of its viewers. It’s naive to come to any other conclusion.

  31. Jared said

    CousinB — thanks for setting the record straight about ESPN pulling the trigger on the NHL, not the other way around.

    Jason, thanks for an excellent read, and I hope you get a lot of hits from it in order to open up the debate a little more.

    I personally am a die-hard hockey fan in the States, and I used to watch ESPN religiously. I was actually in the hiring process with the Worldwide Leader for a corp. position right before the lockout. Ironically, at the same time EJ Hradek was erroneously reporting progress in the CBA talks between the two sides and ESPN was giving the sport substantial coverage, even though they had dramatically scaled back their NHL game broadcasts due to their purchase of NBA rights. I was actually in the ESPN offices the day they were making their decision to drop their broadcast coverage, and it was announced the following day.

    Since then, the NHL has been non-existent on ESPN. Nobody who follows the league can dispute the fact that fans simply cannot find nhl scores, highlights or news during SportsCenter, and barely at all on ESPNews. They do allow Barry Melrose a few minutes a week, but usually only to comment on a brawl or stick incident.

    What you can find, however, is plenty of cross-promotion, not only with other ESPN/ ABC sports broadcasts (NBA, NAACAR, IRL, MLB, Arena League Football?!?!?!), but with ABC entertainment broadcasts, as well. I wish someone kept track of “Dancing with the Stars” mentions during Sportsceter and PTI while it was in season on ABC.

    As a hockey fan, though, I now can only thank god for the NHL Center Ice package, and pray we finally get the NHL network offered in the US in the next couple of years.

  32. duh said

    they’ve been doing the same thing but worse to soccer for years, and now hockey is being given the sarcastic treatment. i guess the only problem for hockey is that they have no choice but to succeed in america. with soccer i genuinely hope they (espn) don’t cover it because they don’t know what they’re talking about anyway so what’s the point. soccer flourishes everywhere else so it doesn’t effect the viability of the sport. hockey doesn’t have that luxury i guess. what i really don’t understand is the point of the constant ranking of the sport’s popularity. why does every sports fan in this country need to constantly be reminded that their sport is popular? it’s such a strange phenomenon. it’s similar to the publishing of movie’s box office gross. why does anyone care how much money pirate’s of the carribean 3 made? it’s almost as pathetic as espn tying sports and celebrity into one disgusting glob of mindless chatter. pti, sportscenter, around the horn, may you burn in hell.

  33. James Kaplin said

    Oh ESPN’s arrogance will be it’s downfall since the call themselves the world wide leader of sports but will lose their beloved “Monday Night Football” that is that in just name to that upstart league the NFL Network…. I mean why should I watch ESPN for the NFL when the NFK Network gives you the game all year around… Karma is a good thing and ESPN will be just as irrelevant as themselves in a few years when the NFL jacks up the cost to show it on Sportcenter but it will be playing all the time on the NFL Network…. I’m with leather will be hanging from his belt when they lose the NFL…

  34. CTNative said

    The commish, in his brilliant wisdom, decided to move the Whalers out of ESPN’s backyard so that the good people of the South could enjoy the game.

    Meanwhile, the people that work and make decisions about sports programming for ESPN all live in and around Hartford. Since Hartford doesnt have a franchise they no longer have a vested interest in the NHL.

    They are not going to drive two hours (one way) to watch a game in New York or Boston on a work night. Other than maybe a few games a year the staff at ESPN goes to college hockey games. The demands of the NHL for allowing coverage of the NHL just rub salt in a wound.

    It is no coincidence that car racing, college football, basketball, poker, fishing and other sports have a greater presence on ESPN than the NHL. All those sports are around Hartford and are attended by those making programing decisions.

  35. Dunc said

    If the NHL was marketed properly it would do better, but with ticket prices going up in all sports – it’s an ‘us against them’ market now.

    ESPN opted to throw in their lot with NASCAR because it has an audience that would buy recycled rat feces if there was a NASCAR emblem on it, making it a more profitable venture for them.

    Now they have to have to denigrate the NHL to help out their new baby.

  36. Biff Scooter said

    Strip it all down, ESPN does a terrible job covering sports it does cover. Ever watch SportsCenter? The highlights are all over the map, especially when seasons overlap. Here’s an NBA playoff game highlight. now we’ll do an MLB highlight of an AL West game and skip next to an NL East game. It’s a mess.

    Living in Canada, I much prefer both Sportsnet and TSN’s idea of a highlight show–all hockey games first, then all basketball, etc. Not just because I’m a hockey fan but you can figure out what happened that day in each sport and division easier.

    I’ve never liked SportsCenter anytime I saw it in the US or Japan (via SportsI). Those talking heads all thought they were the show not the highlights.

  37. Rafi said

    I Think the NHL can only blame iself.
    Last year I went to the Bell center and all year I saw was a red team against a white team that is not fan freindly.
    When i go to see games I would like to see colors of differant teams comming to my city, like the black of Boston ,the red of Detroit or the blue of Toronto.

  38. Ace said

    Jason, thanks for your post. I’ve always felt the NHL’s biggest mistake in the post-lockout era has been not working out a deal with ESPN in favor of Versus. As any U.S. hockey fan knows, the NHL was never a huge presence on ESPN, but ever slight as it was, the legitimacy that coverage brought can not be understated.

    For a sports fan, ESPN is simply unavoidable. How many so-called non-hockey fans unwittingly used to sit through nhl2nite just to get an NBA or NFL score scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Now its us hockey fans sitting through NASCAR highlights to possibly catch a glimpse of a hockey score on the bottom line. At least with ESPN coverage, casual and non-hockey fans at least always had hockey in their subconscious, even if it was minimally being able to name the league’s top stars or who was in the playoffs.

    It doesn’t take a sociology major to understand that ESPN coverage is free advertising. The NHL has critically erred by refusing to see “being on ESPN” as an investment for the future. Rather than innovate with a strategic partnership deal like Arena Football, the NHL went for the quick dollar with the Versus contract. Obviously anywhere but ESPN is a downgrade, but I don’t have hardly enough space to mention all the reasons for the awfulness of Versus’s coverage, from the early tech glitches, to the “local access” quality set the first season, lack of HD coverage, no one has heard of it and knows where to find it, etc, etc, etc, etc. The difference between ESPN and Versus is like the difference between getting a small item on the front page above the fold to getting a full-sized column buried towards the end of the paper. Where would you rather be? (Although you could argue that its not even the same paper.) The shoddy and largely unknown Versus contributes as much to the NHL’s lack of legitimacy as does ESPN’s lack of coverage.

    Le Ann Schreiber’s article is spot on. The turning of NHL and college football into 12-month sports will continue to squeeze out hockey more than the AFL, poker, etc., ever will. However, all those factors combined are not good news for Bettman’s league. Moreover I think Schrieber misses a key point. Individual producers, like those for Around the Horn or PTI or SportCenter, don’t need to receive marching orders from Bristol. Where do all these producers get their sports news? Most likely from the monolith itself – other ESPN programming! If not, from newspapers (who are struggling financially on all fronts) who have largely cut their hockey coverage as well. If its not news in one place, its not going to be news in the other. The vicious circle continues.

    The anti-hockey attitude pervasive among ESPN personalities obviously does not help the NHL’s cause. But unfortunately this is not a problem one can peg solely on “The Worldwide Leader.” The NHL is routinely used as a punchline – whether its on other sports networks, ex-fans angry about the lockout, or among the majority of the U.S. population where hockey was always barely on the sports radar to begin with. ESPN jumping on the bandwagon isn’t the start of this, but it helps to exacerbate the problem.

    I wouldn’t go as far as saying that ESPN is single-handedly killing the NHL because that would imply Bettman and the NHL are doing everything right, and that simply isn’t the case. The NHL put itself in this position even with ESPN coverage – but it needs ESPN’s “invisible hand” more than ever to to get back to respectability. To use a Sopranos analogy, the “dead puck era” and subsequent lockout was a coked-up Chrissy crashing his SUV. ESPN is merely Tony Soprano finishing Chrissy off by covering his face so he couldn’t breath anymore.

  39. […] Lates Links July 10, 2007 at 8:46 am | In Jackie Manuel | Roy takes recruiting in stride. Ellington for USA? I’m guessing he’ll pick Tech. Not much underneath the helmet. Free Stats! Not that they needed help. […]

  40. Kyle said

    Rafi, that is such a ridiculous post. I cannot see how the color of the jerseys of the teams playing make a sport fan-friendly. I have been to baseball, basketball, football and hockey games and not once did what jerseys the teams were wearing became a factor that I liked/disliked the environment.

    At one time, the NHL had home teams wear their white jerseys. This idea was abandoned, which I also do not agree with either. But, it also gave way to some NHL teams to develop their alternate jerseys (which I think is also abandoned for this upcoming season) so that teams can gain revenue. While seeing the Red of Calgary, the Blue of Toronto, or the Yellow/Black of Boston stroll into your local arena is nice to see once in awhile, teams switched to colors for home so that they can increase more money through jersey sales. And it worked. Next season, the NHL is implementing a league-wide jersey change with Reebok, which will be met with debate by fans but yet these jerseys will still sell.

    The NHL is trying to become more fan-friendly with new implementations like the shootout, which doesn’t really catch on considering that there is no major network to watch it on besides VS. The NHL also needs to bring back a bit more of fighting, which is something that everyone wants to see. Fans at NHL events love to see a fight, but the league is trying so hard to abolish it, or limit it. The NHL needs ESPN, because VS. just isnt cutting it.

  41. yessir said

    the fact that the ducks, who were owned by disney (who owns espn) the year before the ducks won the Cup is a bit interesting.
    they sold them cause they couldnt turn a profit- well they certainly did ok this season. while winning the cup they filled the stadium for every game and
    became part of the ‘religion’ of hockey by getting their named burned into the cup.

  42. […] contract with the NHL down the road. Crazy you say? I’m not the only one who sees this. – LeAnn Schreiber acknowledged this as did thesituationist. Once upon a time, soccer-bashing was an ESPN mainstay, […]

  43. Phil said

    If you listen to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio, he’s always bashing hockey. As a hockey I find it funny the things that he says because it somewhat true(notice I used the word ‘somewhat’). Sometimes he does over-do it. The NHL has itself to blame for its problems.

  44. Dave said

    It’s not just ESPN that’s killing hockey – it’s negative press all around.

    Before the lockout it was a sport that was gaining more and more appeal over a long period of time. Even people who never really looked at hockey were becoming more interested because they had a local team they could cheer on. I’ve witnessed this living in Atlanta, GA and watched people who hadn’t been exposed to the sport become huge fans when the Thrashers came to be (mind you “Thrashers” probably isn’t the best name, leave it to Ted Turner to name a hockey team after a bird that would rather flee than fight).

    The battle between players and owners had one victim – the fan, and now interest in the game is slowly sliding and the negative press certainly isn’t helping matters, in my opinion it’s speeding up the decline. It would help if the sports media stopped giving such negative reviews of the games and the sport itself, but ultimately it’s up to the fans to rebuild the NHL.

  45. Peter said

    It is no coincidence that car racing, college football, basketball, poker, fishing and other sports have a greater presence on ESPN than the NHL. All those sports are around Hartford and are attended by those making programing decisions.

    College football is arguably as weak in Connecticut as it is in any state. UConn is the state’s only D-1A team, and it’s been playing at that level for only a few years. Connecticut’s also a long way from the nearest NASCAR track.

  46. Taki said

    Well, I’m a hockey fan and I’ll always follow the Rangers as well as the NHL. As far as getting other people into it, I’ve given up. Nobody cares to even watch a game live (nothing like it) which is, what got me into it in the first place. Sorry to bring in another fringe sport: soccer. A lot of strategic aspects are similar, albeit they happen much more quickly in hockey in a much smaller playing field (ice). I’m a person who likes to watch many different sports, they each have their things. But when it comes to the NHL, they did it to themselves, they possibly deserve what they are getting right now. It’s true that I hear a lot of negativity when hockey is mentioned…but if they’re not fans, honestly who cares. It’s the fans that they have be careful with. Even the casual fan is a fan, and they are not catering to them. Gimmicks are gimmicks and are only short term solutions. I’d like to see more 4-on-4 as opposed to a shootout..but that’s just me.

  47. deter said

    Soccer and Hockey’s continual action make them not as appealing to advertisers…and advertising drives sports coverage period. NFL has plenty of opportunities for interruption…and therefore is the best medium for advertising…Hockey and Soccer both need to look at how the televised game is structured….make them more advertising friendly…if they want to get more TV exposure….

    Start there….and advertisers will push for greater exposure, coverage and buzz…..

  48. Archangel said

    Yeah, but hockey has already changed it’s format to accommodate TV broadcasting. If you go to a real game, they have media breaks so the fans don’t miss a faceoff due to some commercial for the following program. And the advertising could be better

  49. I think you’re wrong for several reasons. Most important is the simple fact that a lockout that took away more than an entire season is what killed off the NHL. And the results of that lockout was a salary cap that perversely assures that warm-weather franchises with casual fans are, statitically anyway, likely to do far better than original six teams with big fan bases. Do the Aneheim non-mighty-due-to-copyright-laws Ducks have ANY die-hard fans?

    I personally believe that salary caps in general are poison to sports. Why reward fan-bases that don’t care about their teams? Would the NBA be more or less enjoyable had San Antonio have been forced to trade Tim Duncan to the Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, or Celtics?

    If you want to do some scholarly work on perceptions in sports, why not look at the way the media constantly sides with management over labor? WHy did the NHL get off the hook for blowing up its own league? Why are we told that the NFL union should let the commissioner do whatever he wants? Why are we told that the Baseball players’ union should stay out of the way of steroid investigations and drug tests?

    Salary caps only make sense in a league like the NFL, where virtually all revenues are shared. How is it fair that the Bruins or Flyers spend the same as the Oilers or Blue Jackets?

    Certainly the NHL is not about to fold, but why don’t you see lack of TV ratings as a sign that the NHL is no longer a major sport? While NASCAR ratings are declining, they are stratospheric compared to the NHL. I think a better question than “why is ESPN ignoring the NHL,” is simply, why is ESPN covering the NHL at all?

    Couldn’t an argument be made that the MLS, with Beckham and already higher TV ratings, is more of a major spport than the NHL? What about NASCAR? Or Arena Football?

    The NHL of the seventies and eighties simply no longer exists. This game has different rules, far less spectacle, minor league lineups, etc, etc. I used to enjoy the NHL. I don’t like watching whatever sport this is.

    We’re probably only a few years away from the NHL becoming a true minor league, like Italain basketball. The great players will follow the money to Russia and Scandenavia. Which is too bad. But it’s not ESPN’s fault. The greed of the owners, and the bizarre cracked vision of Bettman have led the NHL to oblivion.

  50. One more thing:

    Including Bill Simmons’ desertion of the NHL in 2001 is disingenuous at best, and sloppy scholarship at worst. In 2001 ESPN was desperately pushing the NHL. They tried for years, and it didn’t work. Frankly, that evidence alone should be enough to destroy your thesis.

    Why not explore the popularity of the NHL while it was ON ESPN? I know why. It would make this article seem foolish.

  51. […] have been accusations recently that ESPN has it in for the NHL, which I personally would believe in a second. I haven’t got a clue what hockey fans can do […]

  52. james said

    it also does not help the nhls cause last year that chicago, boston, LA, philadelphia were all terrible last year. here’s hoping that sid and ovechkin, plus philly getting better and the rangers getting better will help bring hockey back. eff a whole bunch of espn. i would watch local sports highlights shows more if it wasnt all eagles and phillies all the time

  53. james said

    well after hearing about the espn panelists assassination of crosby in their moronic “Who’s now” crap, just even more proof. let’s see if the idea is picking “Who’s now” lets go for the guy who last won something when crosby was 11, and isn’t even the best player on his team, let alone the face of an entire sport. blech.

  54. Tom said

    The NHL had to take the Vs. offer; they simply had no choice. When the owners forced the salary cap down the players’ throats, they tied the salary cap to league revenue and became partners with the players. And because of that, they now have a fiduciary responsiblity to take the best financial deals possible. They couldn’t take a lower money offer from ESPN (which was on the table), because their hands were tied by the Vs. offer. You want someone to blame – blame Bettman and his laceys; blame him for not having the foresight to see this problem.

  55. J.L.O. said

    Though ESPN is all I know being only 21, even I must admit that I find ESPN ridiculous at times. However, I don’t think ESPN is singlehandedly killing hockey. I know exactly where Versus is but I still didn’t watch the NHL there. I even have Versus in the OnDemand section of my digital package, meaning I could have watched the NHL playoff games whenever I wanted to and I still didn’t watch. Yes, it would help the NHL to get back on ESPN, but it would also help if they shortened their season (I live in Georgia, hockey in June here just doesn’t make sense) and moved the warm weather teams to cold weather areas (you know, where water actually freezes in the winter). Plus, the hockey analysts on ESPN had nothing on TSN’s in Canada. However, the lockout is what ultimately did hockey in. After it was over, things weren’t the same, suddenly I couldn’t figure out what team many of the star players of the previous seasons were on. Perhaps this is where being on SportsCenter every night would have come in, helping to re-introduce more casual but still interested fans like myself to the new NHL. Plus, I know the shootout thing is supposed to make things more exciting, but really, how is giving each team 1 point for making it to the shootout that much better than a tie?

    As for finding sports news, if you’re going to watch ESPN, make it ESPNNews if you have it. In this day and age it is the educated consumer’s responsibilty to find their own news sources on the topics that interest them. If you’re smart enough to realize what ESPN is doing (and it seems everyone here is), be smart enough to turn the channel or get on the internet and find a better source.

  56. Rick75 said

    ESPN… garbage.

    It’s the Paris Hilton of Sports Networks.

    Also, real hockey fans are not overly concerned with how the game is portrayed in the United States, only Philly, Detroit, New York, Boston and a select few other cities even deserve the sport there, the coverage in Canada is fantastic for Hockey, ESPN can keep their Nascar and hot dog eating contests, anyone who can be told which sport they should like by a network deserves to watch hot dog eating and cars going in circles, that’s about the extent of their mental capacity.

  57. flyerdog said

    ESPN is about revenue… the problem with hockey now unlike in the past is that there are no household names like Gretzky or Lemieux..they are trying to do this now this don’t have to be a basketball fan to know who LeBron James is, or Peyton Manning, or Barry Bonds etc…
    What’s ironic is that ESPN’s mother company (Disney) OWNs an NHL franchise!! (the Ducks)

    Bettman gets boo’ed wherever he shows up, but he and his cronies just don’t get it..and they don’t care, he is trying to make the NHL like the NBA and it can’t work that way…

  58. […] Negative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes? ESPN’s ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, felt compelled to examine hockey coverage on the network. In an article last month, she confirmed that hockey coverage has indeed diminished 28% on Sportscenter over the last three years and that hockey-oriented shows such as NHL 2Night were cut altogether since ESPN’s loss of NHL rights. […]

  59. The NHL is dead. Long live the NHL.

    Originally uploaded by anotherdonut.

    Prudential Center under construction, July 13 (photo credit=S.)

    As much as it pains me, I still can’t get too excited about baseball in mid-July. When George Will is your league’s most passionate…

  60. Desjeunes1 said

    In my opinion ESPN is due to be taken down a few notches. I’m 28 and grew up in the golden age of ESPN broadcasting. Sportscenter in the 1990s was excellent. The hosts were great (Mayne, Eisen, Patrick, Olberman, Kilborn) entertainers, the highlights were plentiful and actually gave statistics. I remember every baseball game covered had approx. 30 seconds of highlights and a full screen box score afterward. It was both entertaining and informative with a minimum of sensationalistic material (they even didn’t go ridiculously overboard with the OJ coverage, just imagine how SC would handle that story today). When I was in college, we had SC on a loop every morning in the living room, it was part of the culture.

    Today, me and every friend I talk to HATE Sportscenter. Statistical information–gone, REAL analysis from experts–gone, replaced with the likes of Steven A. Smith (who publicly stated on the SportsReporters that Marty Schottenheimer should have tried a FG on third down becuase if the rookie kicker missed, he would have had another shot), Skip fucking Bayless, Woody Paige, etc. It is no the E Network of sports filled with transparent cross promotion, mindless yammering about T.O., artificial hyping of fringe sports they are financially connected to and commercials for the ESPYs. it is a travesty.

    That being said, I truly feel that if an upstart network tried to compete with ESPN as the source of sports HIGHLIGHTS and INFORMATION, their would be a market for it. All they would have to do is replicate the early years of ESPN. They wouldn’t have any actual, popular sports to cover live, instead they could cover the entire nation’s sports day throughout the day by showing nonstop highlights and analysis. Remember ESPN started with nothing but a handful of college BB games and SC. This new network could directly market to people like myself who are fed up with the monolithic ESPN monster and want our old nightly highlight and information show back. ESPN is ripe for the picking its just going to take someone with some money, guts and marketing savvy to realize that people are fed up with the WHOS NOW absurdity and the constant monitoring of T.O.’s bowel movements.

    Perhaps versus could be this channel. They have the NHL and I believe their next step is to acquire some college BB mid level conference games. if they can attach some growing fringe sports like UFC they may start to catch on. Their best hope is to try to offer the quality sports coverage that ESPN USED to offer

  61. auxlepli said

    ESPN’s anti-hockey stance was evident pre-lockout, and it’s still around IMO.
    That is why I’m very happy it’s off that network, and would reject any overture made to bring it back to the so-called “Sports Leader.” That name, BTW, is a joke when they refuse to remain objective about hockey, or dismiss it in their highlight show.

  62. Jeremy said

    The station is a joke and is no better than E! or MTV, it’s all about everything away from the profession, rather than what happens during games. Every night ESPN has to do some story about some player who is dating or got in trouble off the field for 10 minutes to open their show. The NHL highlights get regulated to mid-show status and each game gets 15 seconds, max.

    The NHL doesn’t need ESPN and I am glad it’s off the channel. Soon those sports sheep will realize this when the NBA is off the network for the same reasons, low ratings and predictable outcomes.

  63. Mojo said

    ESPN sold out the NHL for the NBA long ago. TOO bad that ESPN’s TV contract with the NBA is now worthless. They can broadcast chinese checkers instead of the NBA.

  64. […] of NHL highlights than they did in 2004, leading many to believe that if it’s not on ESPN, then it’s not sports. Now the influential World Wide Leader of Sports wants to return thus increasing hockey’s […]

  65. Sportsattitude said

    I love it, Mojo. ESPN now broadcasting Chinese Checkers instead of the National Betting Association. Perfect.

  66. hockeywillalwayslive said

    The ignorant people that say hockey died after the lockout…ummm, no! It’s still alive and doing well. Hockey has never and will never need much media exsposure. It has done fine without it. ESPN who? Who cares! I say the nhl is golden and we prove that we don’t need any hype to keep our sport strong. Everyone knows hockeys revenue is made mainly at the gate…and the fans keep coming. Why does anyone worry what this country thinks of sports…rankings are subjective. It’s all ones own opinion. UMMM, HOCKEY IS SOOOO NOT DEAD…all the nea-sayers, grow up and get a life! Hockey is just fine.

  67. Marleau said

    Interesting article and (for the most part) comments. I’ve been watching hockey since the Buffalo Bisons. The problem seems to be a simple one. Soccer, for example, is the most popular sport in the world, and has thousands of kids playing in school and youth leagues, but doesn’t get much airplay in the US. It doesn’t attract an audience.

    Hockey, likewise, doesn’t attract much more than die-hard fans where it doesn’t snow. Watching broadcasts on Center Ice from Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, etc., I found it painful to see the half-empty arenas.

    I think the weakness of hockey the consequence of climate dictating active and passive activity.

    A love of winter sports (e.g., the hugely successful and inspiring NHL and old-timer games outdoors in bitterly cold Edmonton), the ability of kids to play hockey outdoors, and the absence of alternatives (would you rather watch a Kings/Ducks/Sharks/Panthers/Lightning game…or go to the beach?) creates much of the problem for hockey.

    We will watch any game we can: college, NHL, junior, etc. We listened to playoffs online from Australia and tried to hook up with the men’s league in Beijing, of all places. We miss the very Canadian (and goofy) humor of NHL2Night. I consider our family serious hockey fans; however, I think hockey will get the audience it deserves when there’s skiing in Miami.

  68. johnson said

    “Rather than just the NHL, it’s important to note ESPN’s ability to “make” or “break” any sport or league.”

    The network doesn’t just make or break entire sports or leagues, it kills certain teams in leagues at the same time. The LA Clippers are a complete joke whenever they are mentioned on ESPN-is it any wonder they have no fans? The Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays were once MLBs crown jewels, and now ESPN considers them jokes even though people in their respective cities still support them well (they just don’t pay for spiffy new stadiums for billionaire owners).

    Indeed, the Montreal Expos were thrown under the bus by ESPN, blaming the fans for a terrible owner and the fact that they didn’t want to spend tax money on a new stadium. They were given no coverage and were constantly mocked, even though they had respectable records their last years and had a large, albeit very alienated, American fanbase in northern New York and New England.

    Likewise, the NHL has for some reason pissed ESPN off. Maybe its because it is full of low-key men who stay out of trouble for the most part. The “E” in “ESPN” stands for “Entertainment,” and while any sport can be entertaining, it is the things that happen off the field of play that fills the time on Sportscenter. Yes, ESPN has become Entertainment Tonight for sports. Since the NHL tends to try and not stand out, mostly because of its small-town Canadian, New England, and Midwestern roots, ESPN has devoted less and less time to it. Maybe if dozens of NHLers began to start brawls in strip clubs and snorted a crapload of coke off some strippers chest ESPN would begin to cover it again, but hopefully the NHL stays the way it is and waits for the day ESPN falls.

    Much of the Disney company collapsed around 2005, as the movie studio, the theme parks, and ABC were all in trouble. ESPN itself has also suffered from this decline, and though the other segments of Disney’s empire have returned to their roots, ESPN continues its downward slide. Should the NHL try to return to ESPN? Of course, it needs some exposure. But it should be careful to not tie its success to the network in any way, because ESPN is primed for a hard fall. It has distanced itself from what it was meant to do, cover sporting events (and not sporting egos), and so will eventually decline until it returns to its roots. The NHL should focus on the internet, and hope eventuality catches up and rewards the league sooner rather than later.

  69. […] Visited Posts Your Brain and MoralityNegative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes?The Batting SituationSituational Sources of Evil – Part IIIndustry-Funded ResearchRed Sox MagicAlone […]

  70. brian said

    I agree with Johnson’s post.I can remember when indeed the NHL very briefly passed MLB to become the second biggest league in the USA(this is probably because of the baseball strike, and Michael Jordan was with the Birmingham Barons, not to metion the Rangers winning the stanley cup.)Then came the big boom of celeberity news and out came the unescapable stories of what Shaq does in his free time, what new product tiger woods is selling,etc, and ESPN jumped on the bandwagon and pretty much became alliances with the big boys. Just last year, I cant recall a single story about the Major League Soccer on ESPN, then comes David Beckham,and well, we find out what his family does, who he’s hanging out with. Yes, one day hopefully ESPN will see the light and get back to covering sports the way they used to.

  71. CJ said

    ESPN in this day and age reminds me of that MTV show dedicated to sweet 16 parties and how spoiled those children are. The network craves when Kobe or Kevin garnett have differences with their teams and want either more money, or to be traded. You never hear hockey players whining about their contracts even though they get paid less than some ordinary people.

  72. james said

    If anyone watched that mindless crap called “whose now” you will know that its who the sports star is dating and what endorsement deals he signed with. What he did off the court/field was not as important, thus, sidney crosby, the lone NHL representitive in that field was quickly eliminated, even though he became the youngest american sports star to win an MVP trophy. Guess money seems to be everything these days huh?

  73. pete said

    yes indeed the MLS was unheard of in ESPN’s book back when it started back in’94. but add a big-time celeb married to a former spice girl and everyone is trying to get a piece of that league. Yep, entertainment is the key word to ESPN.

  74. […] 2Night. Now you’re lucky to see a 15 second clip on Sportcenter of your teams’ game. This article analyzes the catch-22 of ESPN not covering hockey because people don’t like hockey because […]

  75. Ugo Ewulonu said

    Standing ovation for your comments Mr. Chung! I am a HUGE NHL fan (and I’m African American, to offset another stereotype) and you hit on all the key points. It seems like ESPN executives have told everyone in some form to stop promoting hockey. Well known tv personalities have claimed the sport has “disapeared” even though games were still being brodcasted on NBC.

    To me it seems like ESPN won’t cover the NHL because they won’t make money off it. They don’t show NHL games, so they’re not going to spend time talking about it. If the league is as “dead” as ESPN personalities claim, why do they keep have to reminding us that it’s dead? Perhaps to make sure that the public continues to dislike hockey. Other sports leagues (WNBA, MLS, MLL) have worse tv ratings and far worse attendance, and ESPN shows aren’t constantly burying them. The WNBA had 4,000 fans for game 1 of the finals in an arena that seats 20,000. If the NHL saw a number like that, the media would be all over it, saying how the league is dying and nobody is going to games. Attendance numbers are strong however, so instead ESPN choses to constantly remind us that tv ratings are low.

    I watched Pardon the Interruption the day after the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup, and I saw the Ducks were the second topic to be discussed. I was getting ready for them to break down the series, talk about how each team did on powerplays, penalty kills, etc, but instead all Tony Kornheiser did is continue to rip the sport and say it’s dying because tv rating are down. Again, if the sport is so dead, why is it the second topic on your show? Prior to Beckam arriving to the galaxy, when was the last time the MLS was that high on the list. When was the last time ti WNBA was that high on the list. The quality of NHL games is as good as it’s ever been, but ESPN wan’t us to think that the game is all of a sudden boring.

    Again, Amen to you’re comments Mr. Chung, you’re right on the money. And go Bruins!

  76. Valerie said

    As a female hockey fan both of the NHL and CHL I cannot begin to put into words the disappointment I feel seeing other sports aired and no hockey. What is the deal? Hockey is such an exciting, fun sport to watch why would they take off such a great sport? What is the deal with promoting “soccer” and where the player is living and married too? Who care?

  77. Valerie said

    Sorry, I meant, “Who cares?”

  78. Jason said

    I agree with every point on this article, and many of the points being bade in the comments.

    ESPN is so quick to bash hockey, citing that the league only consists of fights and violence. Well guess what…if all you show from the games is a fight, then the only thing people are going to remember from the game is a fight.

    They love to point out the low ratings. Let me ask you this: When was the last time you saw a commercial advertising when a hockey game was going to be on, OUTSIDE of when you’re actually watching a game? I’ve never seen one. The Stanley Cup Finals game on NBC only got a 1.1 rating, I believe the article says. Well when there isn’t a commercial telling anyone that it’s going to be on at this time on this night, and when ESPN doesn’t even let people know the Stanley Cup Finals are even on, no one, aside from the loyalists, will know even where to find the game.

    The reason that the NHL has no “marketable” characters or “recognizable names” is because they don’t tell us any names! The average ESPN viewer is not going to know the name of great NHL players such as Johnathon Cheechoo, Olli Jokinen, Daniel Briere, Henrik Lundqvist, and Marion Hossa. Why? Because Sportscenter doesn’t tell us that this player is having an exceptional season or that player is leading the league in scoring. Rather, ESPN wants its average viewer to think that the only players in the league are Sidney Crosby and (sometimes) Alexander Ovechkin. I think that if NHL2Nite came back on the air, or even if they just gave them more legitimate highlights on Sportscenter, people might recognize these names.

    I was watching PTI late during the NHL season, and I don’t remember exactly what happened, but there was a hockey topic to be discussed. Mike Wilbon gave a dumb response, but he at least tried to sound legitimate and didn’t bash the legitimacy of the question. Instead of responding to the question, all Tony Kornheiser said was “I don’t follow hockey, and I don’t know enough about the sport to answer a question about it” and then the timer went off. It was rediculous. You’re a sports analyst — you should at least be somewhat knowledgable in more than three sports.

    And while every poster before me has already done it, I feel compelled to mention the things getting air time on ESPN over even an extended highlight of hockey. Arena Football? Poker? I may be the only person in the country to realize that NFL Live has been airing LITERALLY every day since two months before the 2006 season. Every day. Through the whole summer, the whole offseason, even on the slowest of days, NFL Live aired. The NFL is literally force fed to us on Sportscenter and other programming. I am an avid football fan, so while it is not too unbearable for me, I still find it rediculous. Don’t even get me started on NASCAR. (too late) Everything that ESPN says about hockey now is the exact same thing that they said about NASCAR before they got a TV deal with them earlier this year:

    “The fights are the only good parts.”
    “It’s only exciting when there’s a crash”
    “Only Candians care about it.”
    “Only people in south care about it.”
    “It gets rediculously low ratings.”
    “It gets rediculously low ratings.”

    And now that they have a deal, I see an advertisement for NASCAR every commercial break, extended highlights of cars going around in a circle (I don’t want to offend any NASCAR fans, but I just do not feel that a car race translates well into highlight packages), and they even got their own NHL2Nite-esque show that I think was called NASCAR Now.

    It’s for all these reasons that the NHL NEEDS to get back on ESPN, even if it’s for less money. They would ultimately make up the difference in the added revenue, and it is the only way to regain legitimacy in the U.S.

    Sorry for all the jumbled-not-really-connected paragraphs I have, I just had a lot of things I wanted to say and not many good transitions to work with.

  79. greg said

    I watched “around the horn” today(which is the day the season starts if you dont count the games in London)and i gotta say i was very impressed with what the reporters said, they gave their opinons on which teams they think will win the cup,they talked about both conferences, they gave their opinions on wheter or not the ducks will repeat as champs and talked about the San Jose Sharks as a team to watch out for this year.And,no one brought up TV ratings, or the sport being dead.So maybe Hockey will get more respect this year.

  80. Sportsattitude said

    I missed “Around The Horn” today but am not surprised to hear they took the NHL seriously. As others have posted, the league does need to get back onto ESPN to be “legit.” Like it or not, ESPN is the platform the sport needs to build from.

  81. […] Negative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes? (by Jason Chung) […]

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  83. […] Is ESPN Killing Hockey? Hi all…..I was cruising the internet and found this artical. Not sure how to post hyperlinks here so sorry for the long URL. But I thought it was a good article and it may have popped up here before. Negative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes? The Si… […]

  84. As an indidvidual who remembers the days when networks were fighting over the rights to air the games (ABC, NBC, FOX, their sister networks), it truly makes me upset to see how the game has gone with its marketing perspective. Not only has Bettman screwed the league up by changing the schedule to conference only games (which thankfully is going away), to a shootout that no one watches, and to broadcasting the sport on what was once OLN for outdoor living to VS (which has very little appeal to the casual sports watcher) to playoff games being cutoff for the news while in overtime….this is more or less the brasses fault than anything.

    The fact that ESPN has made the sport its red-headed stepchild only reaffirms they made a huge mistake in telling ESPN to p*ss off. I agree the lack of exposure is killing the game from getting back to its old glory of the mid 90’s, it needs the help of the sports giant or else it will be seen as slightly better than the WNBA or MMA fighting. The ratings are not there for regular games nor playoffs. I recall MAXIM showed its ratings were only better than the WNBA, but were close to the NBA. So really, it isn’t just because of exposure…its because it isn’t marketed. And those numbers were in 2003, before the lockout.

  85. shuj said

    I live in Canada (Ottawa to be precise) and all I see is hockey coverage…in fact, it is damn near impossible to catch NBA highlights or in-depth football coverage. I wish I got ESPN!!

  86. sven86 said

    Say what you guys want to say but both Hockey and NASCAR sucks! I’m glad that ESPN doesn’t care about hockey, now if only they would stop force feeding us NECKCAR…

  87. whshockey said

    First of all, sven why are you even reading this lol. Secondly, espn needs to stop force feeding us highlights of slam dunks for 2 hrs at a time, it makes me want to vomit. NASCAR gets like 2 highlights, I can make it through that. Baseball highlights are the most tiring and redundant clips ive ever seen. Finally, the least they could do is cover the NHL in sportscenter. As for the two times a year they do cover the NHL…they make me, as a hockey fan, feel like my sport is equivalent to spanish soccer.

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  90. […] Negative Press: Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes? (by Jason Chung) […]

  91. […] programming note: Jason Chung, who authored the well-discussed and outstanding article on the extent to which ESPN has harmed the NHL by either ignoring or belittling it, will be […]

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  95. […] En el artículo “Manufactured Hype: Can ESPN’s Agenda-Setting Behaviour save Major League Soccer?” Jason Chang sostiene que ESPN está movilizando su maquinaria mediática para potenciar el fútbol entre los espectadores frente a otros deportes que están viendo cómo la cadena los maltrata, este es el caso del Hockey Hielo. Sobre este caso el autor también escribió un artículo en este sentido. […]

  96. […] According to ESPN sources, NASCAR ratings were sliding, and this move was in the works for awhile. A decade ago, NASCAR rated well on TV in major markets. That’s not the case anymore. (Exact numbers were not available, but Sports Business Daily reported NASCAR ratings bottomed out for Turner this year.) Here’s the thing – MLB ratings have been down for ESPN, too. But last year, when MLB was negotiating a new TV deal, ESPN just couldn’t let MLB slip into the hands of NBC or Fox. In the summer, when all sports channels are hurting for content, ESPN needs something to put on TV nightly, and MLB games – even if very few people are watching – are content. In the ongoing content battle between Fox and NBC, that was one ESPN couldn’t lose. So it paid handsomely to retain MLB.There was no way ESPN was going to pay $4.4 billion for NASCAR. Especially not with NBA TV rights battle brewing on the horizon in a few years.Related: Nate Silver is Leaving The New York Times For ESPN Related: Keith Olbermann to Host Sportscenter For a Week Starting August 19th, a Week Before His New Show Begins on ESPN2? * Linkage, in case you feel like reading about it. Also here. […]

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