Turner Sports has an easy-to-digest goal when it comes to its inaugural season of broadcasting the National Hockey League: They want to be at the intersection of hockey and culture.
Can they achieve it? Well, that is the challenge — and a significant one.
“We want to respect the game and we want to make sure that we are fulfilling everything that the traditional hockey fan needs, but we also understand we have an equal obligation to the casual fan,” said Craig Barry, the executive vice president and chief content officer for Turner Sports. “This is reminiscent in our NBA coverage. We’re interested in informing and entertaining and making sure that we’re making a deep connection with hardcore and casual fans. And we do that through making sure that we can get closer to the game. There hasn’t been a lot of exposure for hockey players so we want to create more access. We want to let people know who these guys are — what they listen to, what they wear, what they do when they’re not playing hockey, what their family is about. We want to give people an opportunity to be a little more emotionally connected.”
The journey officially begins this week as Turner debuts its regular-season coverage on Wednesday (TNT will air a doubleheader featuring the Rangers at the Capitals at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Blackhawks at the Avalanche at 10 p.m. ET) after acquiring the NHL as a media property this summer. WarnerMedia reached a seven-year deal with the NHL for one of the two national media packages (ESPN has the other) following the conclusion of NBC Sports’ run as the league’s longtime broadcast incumbent. As the season begins, The Athletic is taking a look at what to expect from each broadcast partner. Sean Shapiro has the details on ESPN’s coverage here.
Turner’s deal is worth $225 million per season and includes showing the Stanley Cup Final for three of those seven seasons. The inaugural broadcast schedule features 50 games, with exclusive coverage on 25 Wednesday nights throughout the season. 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. Barry said Turner Sports has 200 staffers working on the NHL, including 100 that were hired over the past few months to work on the property.