Okay, Let’s Talk About This Like Adults: With Melrose, Barnaby and Others, ESPN Could Probably Take NHL Rights This Second

“Okay, Let’s Talk About This Like Adults” is a new, semi-regular feature (Which really should be the trigger words of the “Puck the Media Drinking Game”) in which we talk about actual factual serious issues concerning the NHL in the media.  Like what we really promised this blog would be about from the start, before it essentially became pictures of Lindsay Soto and Conan O’Brien.  We even stop using the royal “We” for a post.

Listen folks, I’m not interested in returning to ESPN.  I’ve stated this so many times before, that I won’t even waste my time linking you to all those occasions.  Okay… maybe just once.  But I have noticed something, as ESPN made it’s rehire of analyst Barry Melrose this week.  It’s that, looking over everything, ESPN could probably put together a decent hockey production right here, right now.  If we gave them both the VERSUS and NBC packages (as I’ve speculated previously), here’s what ESPN’s NHL coverage would look like.

Announce Teams 

#1 Gary Thorne, Ray Ferraro and Erin Andrews 

Look, it’s no secret that Gary Thorne would like to call hockey games again.  No one’s making him give up the one week of the season the Baltimore Orioles are competitive (the opening one) to cover the NCAA Frozen Four.  Ferraro, who called the Frozen Four with Thorne, would likely be a little difficult to get away from TSN.  Remember, however, that ESPN owns a stake in TSN, so it probably could be managed.  As for Andrews?  Imagine the blogosphere shifting it’s attention toward hockey for a few more seconds just because EA is involved.  I mean, that Lindsay Soto post is still the most popular thing we’ve ever written for this site.

#2 Steve Levy, Matthew Barnaby and Rachel Nichols

With Dave Strader and Darren Pang stuck until the Coyotes fold or something, Steve Levy is… sigh… still your #2 NHL play-by-play man at ESPN.  Barnaby is a work in progress at ESPN, but clearly his being kept along with Melrose is a sign that they like him.  Nichols, while not as out there as Andrews, is a popular reporter who has covered past Stanley Cup Finals.

#3 John Buccigross, Barry Melrose and EJ Hradek 

This threesome called a regional tournament of the NCAA Hockey Championships this Spring.  You know what?  It was entertaining.  Bucci’s a funny guy.  However, I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so we’ve kept him out of the top two teams, so the furthest he can go calling games is the Conference Semis.  There, happy?

#4 JP Delacamera, and Ken Hodge and David Amber

Delacamera is under contract with the network as their main soccer voice.  However, he also is the voice of the Atlanta Thrashers, and has called games for ESPN in the past.  Hodge does occasional college hockey work for ESPNU, and Amber has been interviewing players for ESPN.com for a few years now.

#5 Dave Ryan, Marty McSorely and Clay Matvick 

Ryan called hockey in the past for ESPN, including that amazing Sean Bates penalty shot in that Isles/Leafs series earlier this decade.  McSorely’s somewhat of an analyst free agent, left high and dry returned to his post in San Jose.  Matvick hosts some college hockey for ESPNU.

Studio Show

Host

Obviously, Buccigross is your top gun, unless he wants to start doing some more play-by-play assignments.  Otherwise, you have a dearth of hockey people with studio experience at the Worldwide Leader.  Linda Cohn and Steve Levy are more than capable if you can get them to shut up about the Rangers.  Certainly John Saunders has hosted many of hockey’s big events before, though his NBA commitments would likely prevent him from participating too much.  Certainly David Amber, who’s given some of the best interviews anywhere since the lockout, deserves a chance as well.

Analysts

Obviously Melrose, Barnaby and Ferraro are your top guns on nights when they aren’t calling games.  We imagine Brian Engblom and Bill Clement, who would be TV free agents in this new arrangement, could come back.  Bucci could call in one of his player biffles a couple days a week to join him.

Insiders

This is where ESPN will excel.  They have Pierre LeBrun, Scott Burnside, EJ Hradek, John Buccigross and David Amber all already writing about the league to the point where, if they merely could show moving pictures of the game, they would become the ultimate hockey network again.  You would see “ESPN’s _____ _____ reports…” in front of NHL stories on the bottom line.  They could do trade deadline shows and stories as well as “Hotstove” type shows during intermissions.

Wild Cards

This is an interesting category.  Would guys like Dave Strader, Darren Pang, Jack Edwards, etc. give up jobs with teams employing them year-round to head back to ESPN.  What about Keith Jones?  Certainly ESPN would give Doc Emrick a spot somewhere, were he shut out of the national picture.  There are a lot of “if” names and speculation (Could ESPN lure Pierre McGuire from TSN?  How about Bob McKenzie?) that would be fun to talk about.

So, there’s your look at what an NHL On ESPN2/U/Classic would look like, should it come to pass someday.  Likely not until 2010-11 though.  Oh well.  What do you all think?

2 Responses to Okay, Let’s Talk About This Like Adults: With Melrose, Barnaby and Others, ESPN Could Probably Take NHL Rights This Second

  1. Bryan says:

    The problem with a potential move to ESPN isn’t the personnel as much as it is finding airtime and promotion. ESPN shows everything these days, and there isn’t much room for miscellaneous stuff anymore. I feel like if the NHL ever did go back to ESPN, it’d get a deal like MLS did – one game a week on Thursday nights and a mention or two on SportsCenter. Not worth it, in my opinion. That said, ESPN does have some of the more well-known hockey names out there as well as some established people who have less-heralded hockey backgrounds; they could certainly pull it off. The hypothetical question would be if ESPN could give the NHL the attention and time it needs to really become popular.

  2. You already convinced me that JOKESPN would be a bad move for the NHL. Why put the league on some crap sucker secondary disney channel? I say let ’em wish they hadn’t treated the NHL like crap for so long.

    Really, I think Bettman should start carrying that flag explicitly.

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