NHL returns to ESPN with major fanfare; sets opening night record

An average of 884,000 viewers tuned in to ESPN to watch the NHL’s opening-night games, making it the highest-viewed doubleheader in NHL history, Sports Business Journal reported.

The games were the first aired on ESPN since 2004.

The Tuesday night openers also included the inaugural game of the expansion Seattle Kraken, who played the Vegas Golden Knights.

The first game featured the two-time champion Tampa Bay Lightning taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins, which averaged 984,000 viewers, tops for an opening-night game on ESPN since 2001-02.

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ESPN signs seven year deal with NHL

Back in March ESPN and the NHL announced the 7 year deal.

NHL Press Release:

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Hockey League have reached a historic and innovative seven-year television, streaming and media rights deal, taking the new partnership from the beginning of the 2021-22 season through the 2027-28 season. 

The visionary, first-of-its-kind agreement brings the NHL back to Disney and ESPN platforms and illustrates the unique position of The Walt Disney Company to bring the best hockey in the world to millions across its unparalleled collection of media platforms. 

–Field Level Media contributed to this report