ESPN will create a new Thursday night prime-time package for its National
Hockey League regular season telecasts as part of its 2002-03 league
The network will air 14 of its 21 regular season NHL games on Thursday nights
-- directly against Turner Network Television's exclusive Thursday night
National Basketball Association doubleheader package.
ESPN executives believe that it's NHL telecasts will faces less competition
against just two TNT NBA telecasts this year than it did last year when it went
up against TNT's Wednesday telecasts -- as well as several other NBA games -- on
various regional sports networks.
ESPN will also air six Sunday afternoon games during the season.
The network's coverage will bow opening night Oct. 9.
ESPN2 will air 50 NHL games during the season --scheduled mostly on Sunday
and Thursday nights.
ESPN hopes to improve on last season's 0.49 rating for its regular season
games, which was down from a 0.59 rating posted during the 2000-01 season.
ESPN2's 0.23 2001-02 rating was slightly down from the network's 0.25 mark
two seasons ago.