Pro hockey is reportedly returning to ESPN.
In a shocking development, the network has won the right to broadcast the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in the United States, TSN’s Rick Westhead reports.
Breaking – TSN has learned ESPN has won the U.S. broadcast rights for the World Cup of Hockey, beating out NBC and Fox.
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) February 4, 2015
The eight-team event is set for September 2016 and will take place in Toronto, as the NHL announced at the All-Star break in Columbus last month.
ESPN has been out of the NHL broadcast rights game since opting out of a two-year deal following the lockout in 2004-05.
The World Cup of Hockey will feature many of the league’s players and will be played using NHL rules, but it would presumably not conflict with NBC’s contract.
It’s also interesting that FOX submitted a bid. Twelve clubs have regional deals with FOX, but they haven’t been a rightsholder on the national level since 1999. Sadly, there will likely be no glow-puck at the World Cup.
Rogers holds the Canadian broadcast rights to the event. That company began airing NHL games north of the border this season after inking a 12-year, $5.2-billion contract in 2013.
This is surprising considering how long it’s been since ESPN has aired NHL hockey, but it’s good news for American fans. More voices are always better, and the return of pro hockey to ESPN is huge, even if it’s not technically the NHL.