Tampa Bay finished what has felt like an inevitable march to its second straight Stanley Cup last night, putting the Montreal Canadiens away in five games. That signaled a wrap for 15 years of NHL coverage on NBC, as the league will partner with ESPN beginning next season.
As triumphant Lightning players took their victory lap and Tampa's mayor breathed a giant sigh of relief that she didn't become The Story, Eddie Olczyk and Kenny Albert offered their thoughts on the run.
Olcyzk, who has waged a public battle with cancer during this span, gave a shoutout to viewers for their support and thanked all of the behind-the-scenes people responsible for the broadcast. Albert thanked his predecessor — the great Doc Emerick — before ticking through the NBC roster, making sure they were mentioned by name.
It was a nice moment. NBC's hockey coverage was under-appreciated during its decade and a half as they were always up to the job and its presentation was as aesthetically pleasing as anything else in sports. The major complaint, fair or otherwise, was visibility as important games were often carried on NBCSN and finding a less-known channel can be hard.
ESPN seems determined to make the sport a larger part of its portfolio and has assembled an A-list team to lend it gravitas. In the end, that will probably be a good thing for consumers who wanted greater access. But the network will have a high bar to clear when it comes to the postseason and Stanley Cup as the Peacock showed its feathers admirably with great consistency when the moments were the biggest.