Blake’s Takes: The NHL Partners with ESPN for New TV Rights

This week was fun to write about. The big news was that the NHL and ESPN agreed to a new broadcast deal bringing NHL games back to ESPN. In addition to my take on the new broadcast deal, I’ll weigh in on a contract that I predicted a few years ago, as well as my all-time favorite hockey/music collaboration.

Happy Monday!

1. NHL and ESPN Agree to Broadcast Deal

The biggest news of last week was that the NHL agreed to a new broadcast rights deal with ESPN. The gist is, ESPN, ESPN+, and Hulu will all begin broadcasting NHL games next season.

You can find more info below.

When I first heard about this deal, I was excited. ESPN is the most-recognizable and accessible sports channel, just from my viewing experience, and bringing the NHL back to ESPN will make hockey more accessible to fans. That’s what the league needs. I thought former NFL punter and media mogul, Pat McAfee, summed it up perfectly.

The NHL’s product on the ice is great; perhaps the best it’s been in years. The NHL’s problem is visibility and cultural impact. This deal with ESPN could solve that. One of my other takes actually highlights what an NHL team is doing to make a cultural impact.

Also, the NHL only sold half of their TV rights to ESPN, they can still sell the other half to another company and make a boatload of money. As much as we all despise Gary Bettman, you have to give him props for this.

2. Binnington Re-Ups in St. Louis

[Photo Credit: NHL]
The big news this week is that the St. Louis Blues and goalie Jordan Binnington agreed to a contract extension. Binnington would have been a UFA after this season so the Blues had to lock him up before he hit the open market. The deal is for six years and $36 million, which breaks down to an even $6 million AAV.

I remember writing about this a few years ago. Binnington opted to take a shorter deal, two years with a $4.4 million AAV. That got him a nice chunk of change immediately and set him up to cash in again at 27-years-old. He’s just done that, signing a contract that will take him through his age 33 season. If he plays well throughout his upcoming contract, he could stand to cash in on maybe one more modest deal before he inevitably signs a few one-year pacts to end his career.

Binnington hasn’t been as great this year as he was the last two years. He did make the All-Star Team last season and has helped solidify the Blues as a Stanley Cup contender. I don’t doubt he’ll return to form and will keep the Blues in contention for many more years.

3. Leafs Collab with Bieber

I’m going to get roasted for this, but this is awesome. Justin Bieber teamed up with the Toronto Maple Leafs to promote his new song, “Hold On,” which he coined as his “love letter” to the team. The song was posted on the Maple Leafs’ social media accounts last Wednesday and features clips of Leafs’ players. It also includes a nice shot of Biebs hugging his good friend Auston Matthews.

The NHL has a relevancy problem and it’s fucking sick that the most marketable NHL team in the world is partnering with one of the most famous people on planet Earth, who just so happens to be a huge fan of the team. This is the type of stuff NHL teams need to do to engage with their fans, especially in a way that’s culturally relevant. The youth loves J Biebs, the youth drives culture, and culture drives engagement.

I love this collab with every fiber of my being. It doesn’t hurt that the song absolutely slaps.

Also, as a bit of a bonus, here’s another good reason the Leafs are the coolest team in hockey. It’s because their best player is the coolest guy in Canada and does stuff like this.

(Related: Justin Bieber Custom Hockey Cards)

4. McDavid Dazzles Us Again

You all know I like to share my favorite highlight of each week. That goal by Matthews was going to be it until I saw this pass by Connor McDavid.

I included the quote tweet from Pete Blackburn because he’s hilarious. A great follow if you’re looking for funny hockey content.

Anyway, will McDavid ever cease to amaze us? I’m convinced he’s not human. I agree with Blackburn that this pass shouldn’t be legal. It’s one thing to beat the defender and get him to fall, but it’s another thing entirely to pass the puck under your foot and through the defender’s legs, without looking! For Leon Draisaitl to score a hat-trick on the pass is the cherry on top.

I don’t care how much it costs, I will buy tickets to see the Oilers play at the United Center in Chicago the first chance I get. I have to see McDavid live if it kills me.

5. New Members Added to the Silver Stick Club

The 1,000 games club seems to be growing each week. Last week we saw two new additions Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and Panthers’ Keith Yandle. Both great American-born players.

Here is a nice video Kane sent out to the fans… 

…as well as a nice tribute to Yandle by his good friend Ryan Whitney.

I’ve written enough about Kane over the past few weeks. He’s having another great season and recently scored his 400th career goal. That’s no surprise. Yandle on the other hand continues to play well, even with his doubters growing louder. There were whispers he would open the season as a healthy scratch, which would have ended his iron man streak. That never happened and Yandle has kept on chugging along. He’s scored 17 points in 27 games so far this season for an even more surprisingly great Panthers team.

I very happy both players were able to receive their silver sticks and earn recognition for their amazing accomplishments. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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