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REPORT: NBC out of bidding for NHL; enter NHL on TNT?

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NHL NBC TNT
The famed NBA on TNT studio crew - from left — Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Ernie Johnson — could find themselves watching more hockey. // Photo courtesy Turner Broadcasting

On Monday, various reports surfaced that NBC has dropped out and will end being a television partner of the NHL following this season and may just be replaced by TNT.

The NHL has already announced that ESPN and its family of streaming services will be the primary source of both nationally televised and out-of-market games in the 2021-22 season.

Apparently, NBC was not interested in being the secondary national rights holder after being the NHL’s main media partner in the United States since 2005-06.

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According to the Sports Business Journal, NBC will not cover the NHL following the conclusion of the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals.

TNT, best known for its award-winning coverage of the NBA, remains in the bidding for the secondary rights and has become the favorite to land those rights per NHL Insider Bob McKenzie.

Per SBJ, Fox Sports is also still alive in the bidding although Elliott Friedman tweeted Monday that the NHL will be holding a Board of Governors call today to update the television deal.

Per Friedman, ESPN gets four of the next seven Stanley Cup Finals; Turner would get three.

By joining forces with both ESPN (and its streaming service) as well as Turner Broadcasting (which offers TNT, TBS and TruTV as cable options), the NHL is definitely going more mainstream when it comes to being in wired-up and cable-cut homes.

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With NBC, some games are broadcast on the main network with most league broadcasts on NBC SportsNet which is set to go dark at the end of the year.

Had NBC stayed on as a secondary partner, some games were thought to be moved to USA Network with most going to the Peacock streaming network.

Although ESPN’s main business is sports, TNT only has the national rights to the NBA although it also splits coverage of the NCAA men‘s basketball tournament with CBS.

It’s coverage of the NBA has been a boon for that league with the NBA on TNT studio crew of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal considered the best in the business.

The NHL will certainly get some extra coverage just in cross-overs alone.

Barkley has made it known he loves hockey and has mentioned NHL playoff games while on the NBA set.

”He loves hockey,” Florida coach Joel Quenneville said. “In Chicago, he loved coming to our games. I don’t think that would be a bad thing.”

In 2014, Barkley attended Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at United Center when Quenneville’s Blackhawks played host to the Los Angeles Kings.

That came just before the Miami Heat played the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

“A hockey game at United Center is one of the coolest things you’re ever going to see in sports,” Barkley told the Chicago Tribune.

“It’s always a privilege to go to a Game 7, but a hockey game at the Stadium, the National Anthem is obviously legendary. The Blackhawks didn’t win. That’s the only thing that sucked about it.”

While no one expects Barkley to become a full-time NHL talking head, just having him as part of the coverage in some way will be a good thing for Gary Bettman and crew.

The Panthers, meanwhile, make their second appearance on NBCSN on Thursday when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks. They could get more national NBC coverage when the playoffs start.

Florida can clinch its sixth trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs with a win in Nashville tonight.

Then, maybe Shaq and Charles make their way to Sunrise for a few games.

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