The NHL’s television deal with ESPN comes down to one thing


Spare me nostalgia for a theme song that probably none of ESPN’s wealthy folks, who have spent years on the air without mentioning the NHL, could even identify if LeBron James and Tom Brady were humming it.

Don’t lecture me about how much the NHL will benefit from exposure from having its games televised on one or the other of Disney’s platforms, streaming or otherwise. Here’s what I’ve always wanted to know: What would an adult outside of Bristol, Connecticut possess to refer to a television network as “the mothership” or “the world leader”?

There is one thing and one thing of importance attributed to the NHL’s media rights deal with Disney, ESPN, and their affiliated brands that include the Hulu streaming service, and that is money.

This is Slap Shots’ Rod Tidwell moment – show me the money and tell me how quickly his introduction into league revenue will be able to erase the NHL Players Association escrow debt threatening to strangle the league beyond the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. .

That’s all that counts.

The salary cap, under the agreement forged last summer, cannot increase more than $ 1 million per season until the collateral is paid. Beyond that, if a certain amount of escrow debt remains on the ledger in 2024-25, the parties would have to come up with a formula whereby the Palestinian Authority would repay the league in full after the 2025-26 expiration. of the collective agreement. Won’t it be fun? Kids who are currently 13 and playing Bantam hockey would end up paying for this.

The ESPN deal is believed to be worth about $ 420 million a year. A secondary package yet to be negotiated or completed with a second media rights partner is expected to account for approximately $ 200 million per. That obviously represents a substantial increase over the $ 200 million total the NHL is receiving under its current deal with NBC networks, but it probably isn’t the Grand Slam home run – OK, natural hat trick – that the league could. have imagined before the pandemic.

The NHL returns to ESPN.
The NHL returns to ESPN.
fake images

Collateral debt at the end of this season is likely to be around $ 900 million. If players just put back their half of the incoming money from TV, that’s what, about $ 310 million for? Therefore, it would take three years of cash for media rights to offset the current debt.

Except that debt is almost certain to grow because of the annual payroll escrow surplus. It’s not yet known what next season’s protocols might entail and whether full houses will be allowed across the league. But even if the league’s revenue recovers to the $ 5 billion mark that was projected for a full 2019-20, collateral withholdings were 14 percent.

After the next season’s escrow is capped at 16-18 percent, it will be capped at 10 percent in 2022-23 and six percent for the next three years of the deal. So unless the NHL generates additional revenue-generating initiatives, there will be spills every season, and no one knows exactly where and when it will stop.

Maybe the NHL will thrive on exposure on ESPN, maybe the network will direct other properties to its Plus streaming site, and hockey will reap additional benefits from that. But this deal had to do with money. The NHL will only be in debt to ESPN if this deal can cover the debt of the Palestinian Authority.


Not so much this season, when everything went wrong in Buffalo, but even when Taylor Hall was having his Hart Trophy season in New Jersey 14 years ago (What’s that? Was it only three years ago?), There were people during the league. talking about how the winger was a “me” guy in a “we” sport.

So would the Islanders, the Ultimate We Team led by Ultimate We Guys, Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz, dare to try to bring Hall in as a hire at the trade deadline if Anders Lee’s injury is as severe as it might seem? ?

Here’s the rule about Lamoriello: There are no rules.

When you think you know what he’s going to do, you don’t.


Truth be told, ESPN includes a group of professionals who are sure to treat hockey fondly, although it is inevitable that the network will go to great lengths to simplify the sport, as it regularly does with most of its other properties.

If there’s a petition that needs signatures for Gary Thorne to get on next season’s play-by-play roster, you can add mine electronically right now.


Instant, almost halfway home. Elite Eight: 1. Islanders; 2. Tampa Bay; 3. Toronto; 4. Carolina; 5. Vegas; 6. Washington; 7. Florida; 8. Pittsburgh.

Midseason, biggest disappointments: 1. Dallas; 2. Colorado; 3. Columbus; 4. Nashville.

Midseason, bigger surprises: 1. Chicago; 2. Winnipeg; 3. Los Angeles; 4. Florida.

Who wants to bet that the seven-game suspension imposed on Tom Wilson for his low shot that shocked Brandon Carlo was courtesy of a Sixth Avenue just as exasperated as the rest of us by the Department of Player Safety’s penchant for combing out the fine print. to allow repeat headhunters to be cleared of guilt?


You realize, don’t you, that during Friday’s games, seven of the top 13 scorers in the NHL were born in the US, and three of them came from Canada?

Who had tied 36-year-old Dustin Brown for seventh in the league in scoring goals, with 13 as of Friday?

Better question: Who, even a couple of seasons ago, had Brown still in the Kings at 36?

In the league, maybe?


Is there more separation between the first and second monkeys of 2015, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, or between Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine of 2016?

Finally, this quick quiz: Is Laine the New Age Marian Gaborik?

Answers will be scored by visiting professor John Tortorella, who most likely will not be awarded tenure after the semester.

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