Major League Baseball teams play 162 games over the course of the regular season, and while every contest may count, a Sunday night showdown in May typically doesn’t fit the definition of “appointment television.”
However, it’s much easier to argue that label could be applied to an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs—especially when it features one of the best players (if not the best) in the NHL.
ESPN was hoping to treat viewers to both of those options with a slate of weekend programming featuring a Sunday Night Baseball showdown between the Red Sox and Cardinals preceding Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs series between the Golden Knights and the Oilers.
That first contest kicked off at 7 P.M., and based on how the pitch clock has impacted the speed of baseball games, it wasn’t a stretch to think it would wrap up before the puck dropped in Edmonton.
Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case, as the game between St. Louis and Boston was heading into the bottom of the ninth inning when the tilt between Las Vegas and Connor McDavid and Co. officially got underway.
When you consider the Cardinals were sporting a 9-1 lead, you’d think the network would’ve simply cut away to a slightly more compelling option.
However, it opted for an awkward split-screen that gave viewers a chance to watch St. Louis reliever Chris Stratton warm up while squinting in the hopes of viewing the goal Reilly Smith posted just 24 seconds into the first period (it’s worth noting NHL fans did have the option to flip over to ESPN2).
Here is how ESPN aired the opening goal in Vegas-Edmonton Game 6. With Karl Ravech calling a split-screen during a 9-1 baseball game. pic.twitter.com/TEaiDaW0Fi
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 15, 2023
When everything was said and done, the Oilers and the Golden Knights managed to score three goals before the split-screen was mercifully abandoned.
Based on some rumors that made the rounds, it sounds like the NHL had lobbied ESPN to prioritize the Stanley Cup Playoffs and even floated a broadcast trade with TNT but was rebuffed.
Hearing scuttlebutt from ESPN insiders that NHL asked to move the Vegas-EDM game to 8pm ET.
Hearing NHL asked ESPN to move baseball to ESPN2, but ESPN declined. Same rumor is that ESPN also declined to trade games with TNT.
For now, only a rumor inside ESPN.
— Dan Kingerski (@TheDanKingerski) May 15, 2023
While it’s not really clear why ESPN failed to let reason prevail, what is clear is the decision to not exercise some incredibly common sense didn’t sit well with plenty of viewers.
👏🏼 ESPN. Missed three goals in the opening three minutes of an elimination NHL playoff game because we had to finish out a 9-1 MLB blowout. #GrowTheGame
— Troy Stecher (@troystecher) May 15, 2023
ESPN failed the NHL miserably. Tonight’s game drops at 10:00pm in a 3-2 series as Vegas goes to Edmonton with the Oilers facing elimination. This should’ve been at 7pm Eastern. Move Red Sox-Cards to the Duece & be done.
— Anthony Bellino (@ACBellino) May 14, 2023
First, you had the 10:00p ET start-time.
Then, you have the start of the game moved to ESPN2.
Tonight is a disaster and will cause whatever trust hockey fans gained in ESPN to go completely away.
— NHL Zone (@Zone_NHL) May 15, 2023
Of course the baseball game ESPN refused to move to ESPN2 for an NHL playoff hockey game is 9-1 going into the 9th lol.
— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) May 15, 2023
Do better, ESPN.