The NHL has struggled to draw large audiences ever since the lockout season.
Versus, the current home of the NHL, is just not a suitable network for hockey, in my opinion. The NHL will continue to struggle to draw fans as long as they stay on a small-time channel.
That is why rumors of the NHL going back to ESPN have gotten me excited.
ESPN's content guru John Skipper has discussed in a recent article that ESPN is continuing to pursue deals for more major college games, additional rights to tennis and golf, and the reclamation of the NHL. The NHL will have to wait however, as their contract with Versus runs through the 2010-2011 season.
Returning to ESPN would be a key factor in bringing the NHL back to prominence. In my opinion, ever since the outdoor game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the NHL is close to becoming a major televised sport along with football, baseball, and basketball.
Skipper has stated that reclaiming the NHL is on his to-do list, as he tries to bring more live coverage of different sports to ESPN. He also said that ESPN will begin to cut back on scripted shows, reality series, and original movies.
This is an ongoing story that may continue to change, but one thing is for sure. If the NHL can get back to ESPN, we will see an increase in stadium attendance and fan interest across the world.