For starters, the theme song is back.
When it comes to ESPN and the NHL, one of the most pressing questions, both internally and externally, centered around whether the ESPN NHL theme would be making a return as the network re-embarks on its journey as the national TV partner for the first time since 2004.
“The song will be back, guaranteed. Other than that, everything else has a chance to be brand new,” said Jeff Dufine, ESPN’s NHL producer. “It’s an exciting time around ESPN with this, everyone is feeling energized that we have hockey back.”
Dufine has produced “Sunday Night Baseball” at ESPN and will be the lead producer for NHL game coverage, which kicks off Tuesday with a doubleheader featuring the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their 2021 Stanley Cup banner before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NHL debut game for the Seattle Kraken, fittingly, visiting their older expansion cousin in Vegas.
“It’s gonna be exciting to get this kicked off,” Dufine said. “I think we’ve got a really good opportunity to start strong.”
ESPN’s return to the NHL as the “A” package carrier has been one of the most-discussed topics since the league and network finalized a seven-year deal worth $2.8 billion. The NHL also has a “B” package deal with Turner Sports, which will carry national games on TNT. As the season begins, The Athletic is taking a look at what to expect from each broadcast partner. Richard Deitsch has the details on Turner’s coverage here.