Why Doesn't ESPN Cover the NHL?

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Why Doesn't ESPN Cover the NHL?
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

After watching an exciting game last night between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, I turned on ESPN this morning to catch a little analysis of the showdown between Crosby and Ovechkin.

And I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Despite the fact that the game came down to the last goal in a shutout, it took around 45 minutes to hear news of any hockey from Sportscenter.  When they finally did highlight the game, the coverage lasted fewer than five minutes and then switched back to more NBA play-by-play.

I was pretty annoyed.

This isn't the first time that I've wanted more solid hockey coverage from the network.  Between "Mike and Mike" and Sportscenter, hockey receives significantly less coverage than other team sports.

I'm not the only one who's noticed this.

USA Today reported that former ESPN ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber said :

"I think the coverage of hockey is inadequate, particularly at the time of the Stanley Cup playoffs."

She explains that this because the NHL no longer holds a contract with ESPN for broadcast rights, so coverage of the NHL has begun to take a backseat to expanded football coverage which came about as a result of the Monday Night Football deal.

Schreiber explained that hockey only comes up in coverage after major fights, and oftentimes the coverage "disses" hockey.

Schreiber explained in 2007 that ESPN's coverage of the NHL has noticeably declined since the network lost hockey rights in 2004.  In addition to the loss of NHL 2Night, the network's NHL coverage during Sportscenter had declined by around 28 percent.

Since 2007, things haven't gotten any better.  Despite the fact that both the men's and the women's hockey teams made it to the gold medal game during the Olympics, it was hard to find coverage of the games.  Many of the games were overshadowed by coverage of ice skating or even curling.

Many hoped that hockey's Olympic success would lead to some positive PR for the game, resulting in higher viewership for league games and a re-invigorated fan base.

I don't think that the fan base is the problem.

Back in December, I tried to get a ticket for a Washington Capitals game for April 11. 

They were already sold out.

Many other hockey franchises have similar sell-out rates, while the NBA is practically giving seats away. 

Yet I still needed to sit through approximately 30 minutes of NBA coverage before I heard an update on a great game of hockey.

Now, you tell mewhat's wrong with this picture?

Something tells me that ESPN needs to sharpen up its hockey coverage.  There is a huge fan base out there, and just because ESPN doesn't air a sport doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

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