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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

ESPN on Tuesday will finally bring the NHL back to the network after a 16-year hiatus. 

Why it matters: "It's the first time one of the major North American sports leagues will have a major rights package focused mostly on streaming," Russell Wolff, general manager of ESPN+, told Axios.

Details: The seven-year deal, announced in March, gives the network's roughly 15 million paid ESPN+ subscribers access to roughly 1,000 out-of-market matchups. ESPN+ and Hulu subscribers will also get 75 ESPN-produced exclusive telecasts per season.

  • The deal also gives ESPN the rights to air 25 games to air across its linear TV channels, including ESPN and ABC, as well as early-round playoff series and one conference final each year. Four of the seven Stanley Cup Final will air on ABC.
  • The network Monday also announced a few new technological updates, like adding more camera angles than was possible using aerial cameras. Camera operators will also be able to be on the ice for shootouts and coming out of breaks.

Yes, but: The real challenge for the NHL and ESPN is to find ways to grow hockey's U.S. audience.

Between the lines: ESPN is trying to balance keeping its best and most expensive programming for linear TV while also making some available for streaming subscribers.

  • Hockey, like European soccer, is good because it's top-level talent in sports with strong but limited followings in the U.S. In many ways, ESPN+ is poised to compete most with the various league-specific offerings (NHL Center Ice, NBA League Pass, etc.) than other streaming services.

The big picture: The deal "sets a template for how do deals in the future," says Ilan Ben-Hanan, senior vice president of programming and acquisitions for ESPN.

  • Wolff notes that while negotiations with every league are very different, the company is eyeing every sports deal that comes to market.
  • For example, ESPN in August linked an eight-year exclusive deal with Spain's top soccer league La Liga, which makes most matches available on ESPN+.

Go deeper: How to watch the NHL this season

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2021 - Sports

Where it stands: Weed policies by U.S. sports league

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With public support for marijuana legalization nearing unanimity, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues continue to reduce restrictions and punishments.

Driving the news: NBA players won't be subject to random marijuana testing this season, an extension of an agreement between the league and its players' union that began ahead of the 2020 Orlando restart.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.