Hockey is one of the most excellent sports to watch. For over 16 years now, NBC has been the significant broadcast for the NHL on national television. However, one channel that everyone loved watching hockey on was ESPN. One program that everyone remembers in the hockey community was ESPN National Hockey Night. Listening to Gary Thorne and Bill Clement doing the night’s best games was a treasure throughout the early 90s up to 2004. Now that ESPN has signed a 7-year deal with the NHL, we will have games on ESPN again. To celebrate, we’ll look over perhaps the best games featured on ESPN to give an idea on hockey was played on this network back then.
The Guarantee on ESPN Helps Everyone See Who the New York Rangers Are
Everyone knows the story of the 1994 New York Rangers in the hockey world. The Rangers were down 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. To help gain the team’s confidence for Game 6, captain Mark Messier posted a quote saying, “We’ll Win Tonight,” guaranteeing the Rangers will force a game 7. While Messier was going out on a limb, he did provide what the Rangers needed to make their next step in their impressive cup run.
When ESPN aired the game on ESPN National Hockey Night, viewers got a taste of performance not only by the Rangers but how Messier was important to this run. After the Devils got two past Mike Richter in the first period, the Rangers got on the second, thanks to Alex Kovalev. Down 2-1 going into the third, the Rangers needed to get something done quickly. Then all of a sudden, Messier went on a tear.
Almost three minutes into the period, a great setup from Kovalev allowed Messier to bury the game-tying goal on the backhand. Later on, with just 8 minutes left, Messier gives the Rangers the lead when he buried a rebound from a Kovalev shot near Martin Brodeur. To finish off this showing to people around the U.S, Messier iced Game 6 and got the hat trick with an empty netter while on the penalty kill. What makes this moment unforgettable was the call made by Gary Thorne, who worked with ESPN on this game. Thorne said, “DO YOU BELIEVE IT?!! DO YOU BELIEVE IT?!!
Sometimes players can score goals anywhere at any clutch time, and this goal proves that fact. In the 1996 Western Conference Semifinals between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues, the series had several lead changes. The Red Wings went up 2-0 in the series, while the Blues would take the next three. Both teams had stellar players like the current general manager of the team Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, and even the Great One Wayne Gretzky. After the Red Wings won Game 6 to force a Game 7, it would provide one of the greatest moments in hockey for ESPN.
With both teams knowing how important this game is, each team had to rely on their goaltenders throughout the game. Both Jon Casey and Chris Osgood put on an excellent show to put tension on this game. The pressure tensioned once the game went to overtime. But even in the overtime, the goalies did not let their teams down. It was a battle back and forth between both teams to see who would score the series clincher. But when the game went to 2nd overtime, Steve Yzerman sent Gretzkyand St. Louis home.
After Gretzky failed to control the puck on an attempted turnover, Yzerman then gets the puck on his stick. When Yzerman fired the puck from the blue line, the puck beats Casey in a small little corner of the net to win Game 7 for the Red Wings. For Gary Thorne, this would be another great quote from his days at ESPN quoting it like this: SCOOOOOORRREEE!!! STEVE YZERMAN!!! DETROIT WINS!!!!!!!!!
How ESPN Broadcasted One of The Longest NHL Games in History
ESPN has to feel very proud of broadcasting this particular Pittsburgh Penguins – Philadelphia Flyers playoff game. It may not surprise many in the hockey world when the Flyers and Penguins meet in the playoffs as rivals. But that doesn’t mean they always show us a good series between these two teams. The 2000 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals were no different. While the Penguins won the first two games, the Flyers managed to steal game 3 in overtime 5-4, thanks to Andy Delmore. Looking to tie the series, the Flyers would battle the Penguins in a game that would last almost 7 hours.
The Penguins would take an early 1-0 lead almost three minutes into the game, thanks to Alex Kovalev slapshot beating Brian Boucher. During the third period, the Flyers needed to get on the board at all costs. With the Flyers getting a powerplay thanks to Martin Straka‘s slash, the Flyers wasted no time to get on the board to tie the game. When John LeClair tipped an attempt in, the Penguins argued there was a high stick.
While the refs looked it over, the refs said there was no high stick, so the goal stood. After the teams went into overtime, both teams had several chances to end it. But Boucher and Ron Tugnutt stood on their heads and had help from several shots that went off the post. As each overtime period ended, the teams continue to remain scoreless.
Some fans even fell asleep during the overtime periods. During the fifth overtime, Keith Primeau finally ended the game on a shot that hit the post and beat Tugnutt, finally ending the game and tying the series up at two. While Thorne wasn’t doing the play-by-play commentary on ESPN for this game, Levy did a fantastic job with the call: THERE IT IS! KEITH PRIEMEAU!!!
You can tell on ESPN they don’t talk a lot about hockey on their shows. But now that the NHL will officially be back on ESPN, we can hope that hockey is discussed more on the channel. Once games start happening on ESPN again next year, I hope this brings a new audience to understand the sport just like many of us did growing up.
The broadcasts can make new memories just like these and allow people to see that ESPN isn’t just about NBA, MLB, NFL, or NCAA. Many of us are excited about what these ESPN broadcasts will look like, who will commentate it, etc. But for now, we can continue to look over our nostalgia and wait patiently to see what moves ESPN will make to prepare for its first broadcast.
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