The start times for important sports broadcasts have been creeping later and later for years now. But there’s still something pretty shocking about an elimination playoff game not beginning until 10:00 p.m. ET.
That’ll be the case Sunday night when Game 6 of the Second Round series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers gets underway on ESPN.
There have been plenty of criticisms of late starts, including NBA games that don’t tip until 10:30 p.m. Eastern, as networks try to balance audience reach with the competition. But given this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Knights could eliminate the Oilers and move on to the conference finals, the late start here seems to send a reminder to many about where the NHL sits in the pecking order.
The decision for the late start likely comes as ESPN has Sunday Night Baseball between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET Given the importance of that product to the Worldwide Leader, and an inability to move the Oilers-Knights game to another one of their linear channels, they made the call that’s in their own best interest.
They also likely didn’t want to start the game earlier in the day due to Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs series between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. In ESPN’s mind, that presumably left a late start as their best option, especially since one team is in the Mountain Time Zone and the other in the Pacific Time Zone.
Still, that’s not an answer that’s going to satisfy many in the hockey community who want to see the league highlight its best games, not to mention Oilers and Knights fans living on the East Coast who have work in the morning.
It’s weird that the Vegas/Edmonton game is at 10ET tonight. I understand avoiding the NBA game but why not put it in prime time? Is it because of Sunday night baseball? An NHL playoff elimination game should take priority over a SNB game in May.
— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) May 14, 2023
Is the @NHL serious with a 10:00ET start time for Vegas-Edmonton on a Sunday night? Why must this league constantly shoot themselves in the foot over and over with idiotic decisions? Two fun, exciting teams. Let’s put it on when the majority of impressionable eyes can’t watch
— Mason Burke (@MasonMBurke) May 13, 2023
Having Vegas vs Edmonton at 10 pm EST on a Sunday is a scheduling debacle
— Mike Rotolo™ (@MikeRotolo35) May 14, 2023
Edmonton Vegas isn't actually going to be 10 o'clock eastern tomorrow right ???
— Ryan Whitney (@ryanwhitney6) May 13, 2023
It’s also the third-straight game in this series with such a late start time. Both Game 4’s 4-1 Oilers win and Game 5’s 4-3 Vegas win didn’t drop the puck until 10:00 p.m. ET.