The 2021 – 2022 NHL season is shaping up like no other in league history.
But it may not be for any on-ice drama.
It’s because the league inked a partnership deal with American sportsbook giant DraftKings. The agreement sees the company become the NHL’s official sports betting partner in the United States.
To complement that deal, DraftKings inked a separate deal with Turner Sports. Turner currently has a multi-year broadcast deal with the NHL.
So, DraftKings becomes the exclusive sportsbook and daily fantasy sports provider for their NHL coverage under the agreement.
“Over the years, DraftKings has become a brand synonymous with sports, with a fan-first approach through real-money gaming options,” said Jason Robins, DraftKings CEO, via a statement.
“We look forward to collaborating with the NHL alongside Turner Sports and Bleacher Report to provide hockey fans with what’s next in sports.”
NHL viewership building momentum with multiple deals
The DraftKings agreement comes as the latest example of the NHL’s recent rebound.
The league was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenue numbers and game schedules down. But in April, the sports organization signed a seven-year deal worth an estimated US$225 million per year with Turner Sports.
Before that, ESPN inked a similar contract worth a reported US$400 million per year.
And now, with DraftKings’ agreement with Turner Sports for its NHL coverage, the league is hoping for a significant return.
The sportsbooks will display betting info and daily fantasy content across all Turner Sports NHL telecasts. Popular sports culture channels such as Bleacher Report – which Turner bought in 2012 – will also get in on the act.
“Turner Sports and Bleacher Report have become the home of innovative sports betting content and integrations across all our channels,” said Raphael Poplock, Bleacher’s SVP of strategic partnerships, business development and content acquisitions.
Award-winning coverage to NHL
Turner Sports is most known for its production of the NBA on TNT.
Dating back 30-plus years, its studio show Inside the NBA has become a sports culture phenomenon. It has been spoofed multiple times on mainstream comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live. To date, it has won 15 Sports Emmy Awards.
The NHL is hoping to capture that magic.
And new graphic enhancements, a brand-new state-of-the-art studio and personality development are ways they plan to achieve that.
On the ice, player-and-puck tracking data will be an exciting caveat for bettors and avid fans alike. Something Canadian punters, able to wager on single events since changes to the Criminal Code took effect on Aug. 27, could also look forward to.
The idea is to display graphics for dynamic line changes. Here, the tracking data is helpful to monitor shift times and display lineup changes in real-time. There will also be 25 camera feeds per game.
Twenty of those are to be provided by Turner. The other five (blue-line cameras and netcam feeds) are from the NHL.
NHL learning from other major sports leagues to increase viewership
Like its NBA broadcast with its virtual 24-second shot clock, Turner will also incorporate a virtual power-play clock on the ice.
NHL chief business officer Keith Wachtel had another potential idea in mind for its ESPN broadcasts.
According to a report by Sports Handle, he would like to explore a split-screen alternative broadcast showing live on-screen, in-game odds.
The NFL explored the option during a Monday Night Football broadcast in Sept.
“We think it is great what the Manning Brothers are doing for Monday Night Football on ESPN 2,” said Wachtel.
“What we want to do is make sure fans have flexibility. There will be some fans that don’t want any interaction with sports betting; they don’t want to have their screen with odds the whole game.
There will also be fans who will love it. We want to provide those fans with more and more data.”
Turner Sports agreement with the NHL
In total, there will be 25 Wednesday night broadcasts on Turner Sports throughout the season.
Turner will also help broadcast the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The company will host the Stanley Cup Final in three of its seven years under the agreement.
Other marquee events Turner Sports will cover for the 2021 – 2022 season include:
- Winter Classic (Jan. 1, 2022 – Minneapolis)
- Stadium Series (Feb. 26, 2022 – Nashville)
- Heritage Classic (March 13, 2022 – Hamilton, Ont.)
The NHL has returned to its traditional 82-game regular-season schedule this year for the first time since the 2018 – 2019 season.
The league also expanded to 32 teams with the addition of the Seattle Kraken.
Opening night was Oct.12.