Could hockey fans dreams of the NHL returning to ESPN actually come true? Most likely not this year but rumors are ESPN is interested in getting the NHL back at a reduce rate. They are not desperate by know means to get the NHL back but according to a source, “if the NHL ever wants to send a offer at a reduce rate of the 60-65 million their receiving from Versus, ESPN will listen.”

What will it take?
Excerpt from May 31, 2005 “ESPN executive vp, programming and production Mark Shapiro: Gary Bettman was uncomfortable with cutting fees anywhere under the $60 million mark,‚Äù Shapiro said, adding that even should the NHL return today, ‚Äúthey‚Äôd be worth a…modest rights fee, well below half of what they‚Äôre asking now.”

Fast Forward to 2007: A anonymous source said, the NHL hasn’t explored the idea of returning to ESPN but it is believed ESPN would listen to an offer of 35-40 million for broadcasting rights. “Can’t see them going beyond 40 million and that may be a bit high”, according to the source. The source said Bettman would be a fool not to take his licks and accept the offer if it is actually on the table. “Anyhow, returning to ESPN at a reduce rate, is the chance for the NHL to move forward and gives them the only chance in 6-8 years tp receive a quality T.V. contract.” I can’t disagree with that.

Eklund of is speculating about a return to ESPN.
“A source has told me that ESPN is desperate to get back into the hockey game, and has let it be known. Versus has the NHL this season and the option to re-up for another 3 years…I am being told that Versus is on the fence and the NHL may offer up a package of games to Versus, while returning the majority of the deal to ESPN next season. In essence this could give the NHL its biggest presence to date on National TV in the US. NBC for the weekend games and finals, ESPN and ESPN2 for the majority of the season games and playoffs, and Versus (who by the way, may become a vehicle for the NHL Network in the US) will have a Game of the Week similar to the deal that TNT has in the NBA.” (*courtesy of*)

I met Eklund in Columbus at the draft and although the guy reports a lot of B.S. he does have a lot of sources throughout the NHL. Take this rumor with caution but Sources have told me the NHL returning to ESPN2 is a possibility, if Bettman can ever swallow his pride and do whats best for the game.