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Column: The NHL-ESPN deal is one that should work well for all involved

In the early days of ESPN, when the concept of an all-sports network was laughably dubious and slow-pitch softball, tractor pulls and Australian Rules Football filled gaping holes in programming, the network found a perfect partner in the NHL.

The Hartford Whalers (of blessed memory) were down the road from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn., making for easy production efforts and instant fame for the team’s jazzy goal song, “Brass Bonanza.” The first NHL game aired on ESPN in December of 1979, a little more than three months after the network’s launch. NHL games provided precious live action for ESPN, which was legitimized through its association with an established major sports league.