A new weekly studio show. An Adam Schefter or Adrian Wojnarowski for NHL news. A breakthrough to rival the groundbreaking yellow first-down line on NFL broadcasts.
Those are just some of ESPN’s ambitious plans as it returns to NHL coverage this October via a new seven-year, $2.8 billion rights deal. It marks the first time in 16 years that the network will broadcast live hockey.
Mark Gross, ESPN’s senior vice president of production and remote events, will lead all aspects of NHL coverage. He gave Front Office Sports a preview of ESPN’s strategy:
- ESPN may hire an uber news-breaker for the NHL similar to Adam Schefter (NFL), Adrian Wojnarowski (NBA), or Jeff Passan (MLB).
- Look for talent mainstays like Steve Levy, Linda Cohn, John Buccigross, and Barry Melrose to play key roles in the coverage.
- Yes, the popular ’90s-era NHL theme music will be back (but a redux of Fox’s “glowing puck” is not in the cards).
- A new NHL studio show on ESPN’s linear TV channels and an expansion of Cohn’s “In the Crease” on ESPN+.
- Will ESPN’s on-air talent talk about gambling? Don’t bet against it, Gross says.
Gross grew up playing hockey in Troy, New York. During his 33-year career at ESPN, he’s produced everything from the NFL and NBA to MLB and “SportsCenter.”
Now he’s ready to take up the challenge of televising hockey: a sport best viewed in person. “We’re not interested in sitting still,” Gross promised.