Jun 13, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Florida Panthers right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (10) celebrates with Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) after defatting Edmonton Oilers in game three of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

All things considered, Bristol, Connecticut, isn’t considered much of a hockey town. But outside of Edmonton, you likely wouldn’t have found many bigger Oilers fans on Thursday night than the ones inside of ESPN’s headquarters.

Yet despite the obvious support they were receiving more than 2,500 miles away, Connor McDavid and Co. suffered yet another defeat and now find themselves facing an 0-3 series deficit to the Florida Panthers in the NHL Stanley Cup Final. Of the 28 previous teams to take a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, 20 have proceeded to sweep the series — although it’s worth noting Edmonton enters Saturday night’s Game 4 as a slight favorite.

Nevertheless, a four-game sweep remains a very real possibility, which would have obvious implications for Disney, which hosts its ESPN-branded broadcasts on ABC. It goes without saying that networks would prefer a longer series to a shorter one — more content means more revenue especially as later games draw more viewers — with a lopsided four-game sweep being the worst possible outcome.

But while networks know the possibility of sweeps come with the territory of hosting a playoff series, ESPN’s desire for Edmonton to extend the series has likely only been amplified by what’s currently happening in the NBA Finals. Laying claim to a 3-0 series lead, the Boston Celtics will look to complete its own sweep of the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, in a series that’s been even less competitive than its NHL counterpart (the up-and-down ratings have reflected as much)

This can’t be what ESPN envisioned when it reacquired its NHL rights in 2021, with the deal giving the network four Stanley Cup Finals over the course of a seven-year span. Already laying claim to the NBA Finals, ESPN found itself looking at the possibility of dominating the month of June with a two-week stretch in which it would alternate the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final broadcasts on a nightly basis.

Instead, it’s looking like the Worldwide Leader will wind up with roughly half of that this year.

Should the Celtics and Panthers win their respective Game 4s, it would be the first time since 1995 and just third time ever that the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final have been sweeps in the same year (H/T Yahoo Sports). In fact, both series starting 3-0 is rare in and of itself, with this year marking the first time it’s occurred since 1996.

With the Stanley Cup Final heading back to Turner in 2025, Disney won’t get its next shot at an NBA and NHL championship double dip until 2026. Suffice to say, ESPN will be hoping that those series are more competitive — and longer — than the ones it’s currently hosting.

In the meantime, Bristol will remain an Oilers and Mavericks town.

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.