Reports of a long-term ESPN-NHL deal sparked palpable excitement in the hockey world on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, that excitement only grew with a special announcement from the sports broadcasting network.
Along with a confirmation of yesterday's reports, ESPN announced the return of the classic National Hockey Night theme music. First introduced to the public with its debut in 1992, the iconic theme song still resonates with long-time hockey fans today.
The official announcement was fittingly made by veteran ESPN personality and former National Hockey Night and NHL 2Nighthost John Buccigross.
“Music and sport have always inexorably connected," Buccigross said. "TV shows had to have a theme song. Some instrumental and some with lyrics and music. Music is an attention-getter and ESPN’s National Hockey Night music and NHL 2Night themes were designed to increase the heart rate with dramatic brass and pounding drums. It sounds dated, and I like that. It defines a specific time and conjures up feelings of youth, fun, and possibility.”
Nostalgic score aside, this broadcast deal is huge for the game of hockey.
The new contract will see the NHL get primetime coverage on ESPN for the first time since 2004. Amidst the infamous 2004-05 labor dispute season cancelation, the network's long-time connection with the sport was severed. Primary rights to NHL events were then picked up by NBCSN, who covered the sport for years before their contract expired this offseason.
ESPN's massive contract agreement will extend over the next seven years starting in the fall. The deal includes rights to 25 regular season games on either ESPN or ABC, early-round playoff series, one conference finals series per year and at least four Stanley Cup Finals on ABC.
With hockey's triumphant return to the limelight, it's only fitting it's scored by an equally triumphant soundtrack.