Last night might have been the most anticipated night in the young NHL season. For the first time, ESPN held a “Frozen Frenzy” broadcast featuring live look-ins of all 16 games as all 32 games in what could be best described as “NHL Redzone”.
Ever since regaining media rights to the league at the beginning of the 2021-2022 NHL season, ESPN has been looking for new and unique ways to expand coverage of the league they’ve been accused of avoiding.
ESPN hyped up this event to the point that you figured it might be a weekly event on the worldwide leader in sports broadcast calendar. At the very least, we hockey fans appreciated the effort ESPN put into trying something new.
Hockey fans were very excited for ESPN’s “red-zone” style broadcast of 16 NHL teams. What made ESPN add it to their broadcast schedule?
The NHL and ESPN teamed up to bring fans an amazing Frozen Frenzy show.
Last night while watching the Frozen Frenzy, after my New Jersey Devils dispensed the Montreal Canadiens courtesy of a Tyler Toffoli hat trick, I noticed something while perusing the channels.
Last night was also opening night for the NBA regular season. Opening night was a huge doubleheader that was broadcast on TNT, a rival of ESPN.
Baseball fans also knew last night was game seven of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yet another major sporting event for the NHL to compete against for television viewers.
The NHL didn’t have the MLB playoffs in mind when it set the regular season schedule for this season. Is it possible that perhaps ESPN took notice that there might be an overlap when it started planning this “Frozen Frenzy” event in what was announced just over a month ago?
There are two different schools of thought we can have to this. The first is that the “Frozen Frenzy” was created as a ratings grab by ESPN. They noticed wouldn’t be able to broadcast any of the “main events”, for lack of a better word, for that day on the sports calendar.
ESPN looked to the sports whose rights they held to put together an event to provide them with broadcast and try to draw hockey lovers away from viewing the NBA and MLB playoffs.
The second school of thought is much more sympathetic to ESPN. No matter who had the rights to the NHL, media coverage has always lagged far behind the other major professional sports in the United States.
ESPN tried to elevate NHL games to “event viewing”, similar to but not completely like NFL games.
ESPN has yet to announce if they’ll try the concept again. The Hockey News had a great idea in their power rankings article of having it on a Saturday next time, most likely it wouldn’t be on a Sunday because of direct competition from the NFL. That decision will likely depend on last night’s television ratings.
Interestingly the concept was only used in the United States and not in the Canadian television market on Tuesday. This was an idea pretty much all hockey fans were excited about. We can see ESPN re-using the concept, especially if there’s another big sporting event just a few channels over.