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NHL Analyst Chris Chelios Won’t Be Renewed By ESPN

  • ESPN won’t renew Hockey Hall of Famer’s TV contract, say sources.
  • Chelios first name to emerge from ESPN talent downsizing.
Chris Cheliios
Syndication: DetroitFreePress

The names of some recognizable personalities on the bubble during the painful ESPN layoffs have begun to circulate at the Worldwide Leader in Sports. 

Chris Chelios won’t return next NHL season as an in-studio hockey analyst, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Front Office Sports. The Hall of Fame defenseman’s contract is not being renewed, said sources. His departure had nothing to do with his performance. But it was part of ESPN’s examination of talent contracts this month.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion has been a constant presence on ESPN since the network reacquired broadcast rights for the NHL ahead of the 2021-22 season. But the 61-year-old Chelios won’t be the only big name leaving ESPN in the coming weeks.

As part of a separate, cost-saving “talent exercise,” ESPN is looking to cull the ranks of on-air announcers, analysts, and reporters this month. 

The most vulnerable are those with expiring contracts, veterans making big salaries, and those who don’t work more than a day or two per week while covering their respective sports.

The cutbacks come in the wake of parent Walt Disney Co.’s mandate to slash 7,000 jobs and $5.5 billion in costs worldwide. 

ESPN prepares for another round of layoffs.

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Disney just completed its three-phase process. ESPN was not impacted by the first phase of Disney’s cutbacks. But during the second phase in April, it lost top executives like beloved communications guru Mike Soltys. During the third phase in May, it lost more off-camera executives, including research ace Barry Blyn.

There’s also been grumbling on the corporate campus in Bristol about ESPN signing Pat McAfee to a lucrative multi-year deal while preparing to dump veterans who’ve given decades to the company. 

But the McAfee contract is more of a deal with his production company rather than a straight talent hire. McAfee was already working for ESPN on “College GameDay.” His eponymous show is poised to take over Max Kellerman’s “This Just In” on the weekday afternoon schedule.

Across the board, ESPN is expected to achieve the bruising cuts in several ways.

There was the previous layoff of traditional employees working on an at-will basis this spring. Talent with guaranteed contracts will either not be renewed like Chelios – or bought out. They will still get their money. But at least ESPN can write their salaries off the books. If they desire to join another company, they will have to negotiate an exit from their current ESPN deals. 

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Within ESPN, there are at least ten or so untouchable talents. 

They range from McAfee, Stephen A. Smith, Troy Aikman, Joe Buck and Kirk Herbstreit to Mike Greenberg, Scott Van Pelt, Doris Burke, Adam Schefter, and Adrian Wojnarowski. But “nearly everybody else is fair game,” warned one source.

Rising star Mina Kimes is also a pending “free agent” and likely to draw suitors such as Dan Le Batard’s Meadowlark Media and Bill Simmons’ The Ringer.

Since 2021, Chelios has also served as a brand ambassador for BetMGM.

ESPN declined to comment for this story.

The Worldwide Leader boasts about 5,000 employees, with 4,000 or so working on the main campus in Bristol, Conn.

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