We all know that ESPN treats hockey like the unloved child of a bad marriage. But why? Longtime sports media guy Ed Sherman went directly to Vince "Let's get this clown out of here" Doria, ESPN's senior vice president and director of news, and asked him that very question. Doria's response:
It's a sport that engenders a very passionate local following. If you're a Blackhawks fan in Chicago, you're a hardcore fan. But it doesn't translate to television, and where it really doesn't transfer much to is a national discussion, which is something that typifies what we do.
Baseball fans are interested where Albert Pujols is going. NBA fans are interested in the Miami Heat. For whatever reason, and this is my unsubstantiated research on it, hockey doesn't generate that same kind of interest nationwide. You look at national talk shows. Hockey rarely is a topic. People in Boston aren't that interested with what's going on with the Blackhawks.
When asked if things would be different if ESPN still aired hockey games on the network, Doria said:
Listen, I guess if we were rights holder, there probably would be a little more attention paid to it. It's typical that would happen. We might throw it to commentators who were inside the building. Now we're not inside the building.
It's always funny when ESPN executives talk innocently about "national discussions," as if national discussions happen apart from ESPN—as if they rise organically out the soil in New York and Deer Isle and Des Moines and Tupelo and San Bernardino. ESPN is the national discussion; if ESPN doesn't discuss hockey, the nation doesn't either.