For the first time since 2004, the National Hockey League (NHL) returns to ESPN with three exclusive national games this week starting with the season opener today at 7:30 p.m. ESPN has the primary broadcasting rights for the NHL after 17 years on NBC Sports and its cable networks.. Walt Disney, which owns ESPN, is paying a reported $400 million annually to the hockey league for the seven-year broadcast deal
The 2021 NHL FaceOff will feature a doubleheader on ESPN with the first game showcasing the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning with a banner-raising ceremony at Amalie Arena when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 p.m. Calling the live game action will be play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough, who will be joined by analyst Ray Ferraro and Emily Kaplan reporting from rinkside. Steve Levy and NHL Hall-of-Famers Mark Messier and Chris Chelios will be joined by ESPN veteran analyst Barry Melrose at the desk during intermissions.
In the second matchup, the Seattle Kraken hope to make a splash when the puck drops for their inaugural season, making their franchise debut at T-Mobile Arena against the 2017-18 expansion Vegas Golden Knights at 10:15 p.m. John Buccigross will handle play-by-play duties, while Brian Boucher will serve as game analyst and A.J. Mlezcko as rinkside analyst. Longtime SportsCenter anchor and In The Crease host Linda Cohn will be joined by Kevin Weekes for analysis during intermissions.
Both FaceOff matchups will be simulcast on ESPN+, before opening week continues on ESPN+ Hockey Night with the Minnesota Wild and Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov taking on the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on Friday, October 15, at 10 p.m. Leah Hextall will call live play-by-play action alongside analyst Brian Boucher, while Linda Cohn will handle reporting duties from Anaheim. Arda Öcal, Ryan Callahan and John Tortorella will handle intermission analysis.
Turner Sports will also broadcast the NHL for the first time with a doubleheader on Wednesday on TNT. The doubleheader will showcase the New York Rangers, led by Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and 2021 James Norris Memorial Trophy winner Adam Fox, visiting the Washington Capitals and their star-studded lineup highlighted by Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Later at 10 p.m., the 2021 Presidents’ Trophy winners Colorado Avalanche and Nathan MacKinnon will host the Chicago Blackhawks, with the anticipated Chicago debut of 2021-22 Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury.
The NHL on TNT’s weekly schedule will include exclusive coverage on 25 Wednesday nights throughout the season – including 15 doubleheaders. Starting in Spring 2022, the network will add seven weeks of Sunday afternoon telecasts for March and April. TNT will also be the home of the NHL’s marquee outdoor games this season: the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic on Saturday, Jan. 1, the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series on Saturday, Feb. 26, and the 2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday, March 13.
TNT will also broadcast the Stanley Cup Final in three of the next seven seasons along with half of the Stanley Cup playoffs on both TNT and TBS networks.
Turner is reportedly paying $225 million each year for NHL broadcasting rights.