On Oct. 24, ESPN debuted Frozen Frenzy, a hockey coverage show similar to the NFL Red Zone. This broadcast featured all 32 teams playing in one night and garnered over 620 thousand viewers.
ESPN started the broadcast with a tripleheader, featuring games between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, and Vegas Golden Knights and Philadelphia Flyers. The games were staggered throughout the night, so fans had the opportunity to watch several games at one time without them all being at intermission at the same time.
The Washington Capitals took on the Maple Leafs in the first game of the night and brought in 475 thousand viewers alone. This is the largest cable audience for a game involving a Canadian team since 2017.
In total, the Frozen Frenzy broadcast, hosted by John Buccigross and analyst Kevin Weekes, was 6.5 hours of non-stop hockey. The show featured whip-around coverage of all 16 games and highlighted the best plays and goals of the night.
While Frozen Frenzy may be modeled after NFL Red Zone, switching between games in hockey is more challenging than in football due to the sport's nature. However, Frozen Frenzy did a good job of showing the important moments from all of the games. This included showing when teams were on the powerplay or backtracking to any goals that were missed during commercial break.
One of the major drawbacks of the Frozen Frenzy broadcast is that it was on a Tuesday. With the first game starting at 6 p.m. E.T. and the last game not starting until 11 p.m. E.T., it made it hard for fans to follow all of the games. In fact, there was a significant drop off in the amount of viewers during the later games.
Another flaw to the Frozen Frenzy was that it went up against Game 7 of the MLB’s NLCS series and NBA Opening Night. While avid hockey fans were determined to watch as many games as they could, casual sports fans were forced to pick between the MLB, NBA and NHL.
Although diehard fans were undoubtedly happy about hours of uninterrupted hockey, several NHL players were also interested in how Frozen Frenzy would pan out.
"I think it's awesome," Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel said. "The fact that we're all playing on that day gives the fans the opportunity to see every game and the growth of the game... If I was a fan, I'd love [it].”
Chicago Blackhawks rookie, Connor Bedard, was also excited about the show.
"It's great you can flip through all those games, never a dull moment," Bedard said. "So it's great, I think, as a fan, and you get really excited for that.”
Many fans are happy that ESPN has begun to focus more on the sport of hockey. The provider regained rights to the NHL during the 2021-22 season, marking a significant return after not broadcasting NHL games since the 2004-05 lockout. This partnership has not only been a source of delight for the fans but has also left a lasting impact on the game itself.
"I think it's grown the game a substantial amount," Guentzel said. "ESPN is such a high level for television. Just the people they have on there talking about the game, I think it's been great for the League and for us players. We love having it on ESPN just because it grows the game."
The debut of ESPN's Frozen Frenzy marked a significant moment for hockey enthusiasts, offering an exciting and comprehensive way to enjoy the game. While it faced challenges with its scheduling and competition from other major sports events, it managed to capture the hearts of dedicated fans and even earned the praise of NHL players themselves.
As ESPN's renewed focus on hockey continues to grow the game and engage fans, the future looks promising for more unforgettable hockey moments on this beloved sports network. The next Frozen Frenzy night is slated for Jan. 13, 2024, and the success of this inaugural event leaves us eagerly anticipating what's to come.