Jun 18, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) controls the puck against Florida Panthers forward Kevin Stenlund (82) during the third period in game five of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

We’re realistic here at Awful Announcing. We know that when it comes to its morning shows, ESPN is going to prioritize its coverage of football, basketball and even baseball over hockey. But if ever there was a time for the Worldwide Leader in Sports to lean into its status as the home of the Stanley Cup Final, one would imagine that it would be, well, during the Stanley Cup Final.

And not just any Stanley Cup Final, but this year’s Stanley Cup Final, which features no shortage of storylines perfectly digestible for the ESPN morning slate’s “embrace debate” format. Even if you’re not a true puck head — and this author isn’t — it isn’t difficult to understand narratives like Connor McDavid vying for his first Stanley Cup, the Edmonton Oilers looking to break Canada’s 31-year championship drought and one of the best American-born player in Matthew Tkachuk and the Florida Panthers looking to avenge last year’s defeat on hockey’s biggest stage.

What’s more is that this series — which airs on ABC with ESPN branding — has lived up to the hype.

After the Panthers won the first three games, the Oilers have won the past two and will look to even the series in Game 6 in Edmonton on Friday night. After a slow start, McDavid has been as good as advertised recording three goals and eight assists, putting the Oilers on the verge of a potentially historic comeback.

Or would it be a Panthers collapse?! These are the types of debates one would’ve figured Get Up and First Take might be having, just like they spent the last two weeks debating whether the Boston Celtics’ best player is Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, Luke Dončić’s place in the NBA’s hierarchy or whether Game 3 of the Finals was bigger for Kyrie Irving than when he hit the series-clinching shot in Game 7 of the Finals in 2016.

Yet despite this particular Stanley Cup Final producing plenty of potential topics, the series has barely been discussed on Get Up or First Take since it first began. According to a closed captioning search, the only discussion of the NHL’s championship round this week that wasn’t an ad-read came by way of a passing highlight on Get Up on Wednesday, with Mike Greenberg noting that former Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who was in studio, is a big Panthers fan.

For what it’s worth, Florida’s Game 3 victory last week did lead Friday’s Get Up, although that discussion was limited to a brief highlight package with analysis from Alan Hahn (who hasn’t covered hockey on a full-time basis since 2006). Altogether, Get Up‘s analysis of this year’s Stanley Cup Final has been limited to brief highlight packages following Games 2, 3 and 5 (Games 1 and 4 both took place on Saturdays), while First Take has made good on Stephen A. Smith’s statement that his show doesn’t care about hockey.

Again, we’re not naïve to where the NHL fits into the pecking order at ESPN. But with the NBA Finals now over and NFL training camp still a month away, it’s not like there’s a lot to talk about in the world of sports at the moment.

Instead, here’s a list of topics that were discussed on Get Up on Thursday:

  • Gerrit Cole’s performance vs. the Baltimore Orioles
  • NBA fact or fiction?
  • Draymond Green’s belief the Lakers should target Monty Williams
  • The latest regarding the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys’ offseasons (did somebody say Dak Prescott contract talk?)
  • Brandon Aiyuk’s contract negotiations with the San Francisco 49ers
  • Monica McNutt accidentally activating the balloons effect on her FaceTime two days ago
  • A game of “NBA fill in the blank”
  • WNBA highlights and discussion.
  • Burning questions in the AFC East.
  • A game of “Wood you rather?” with NFL analyst Damien Woody.

And that was just the 8 a.m. hour.

Granted, Game 6 is still a day away, but do you mean to tell me that Greenberg’s burning questions for the AFC East couldn’t have waited until next week? Would it really be that hard to have P.K. Subban, Mark Messier or Emily Kaplan on the show to discuss the historical significance of this series or the allegations that McDavid is actually overrated? Or is “NBA fill in the blank” so important to Get Up‘s ratings that it simply can’t be sacrificed in an attempt to set the stage for Friday’s Game 6?

Fortunately for hockey fans, such conversations are happening elsewhere, including on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, which has had both Subban and Messier as guests in recent weeks. The Pat McAfee Show has also leaned into its NHL fandom, providing at least some semblance of hockey coverage on ESPN’s airwaves ahead of its actual game coverage.

One would assume that Get Up will have at least some Stanley Cup talk on Friday, even if it’s brief. Then again, one would have also assumed that ESPN’s partnership with the NHL would have produced more hockey coverage than it has to this point, with the league remaining an apparent afterthought for the network — at least in the mornings.

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.