Disney is doing something new with ESPN to try and attract more young hockey fans. Variety is reporting that on March 14, 2023 at 7:00 PM ET, ESPN will be animating the match between the Washington Capitals and then New York Rangers and broadcast it on the Disney Channel and Disney XD. The game, known as the “NHL Big City Greens Classic,” will also feature a few characters from the cartoon series Big City Greens. For those that want to see the game in a more traditional format, it will still be broadcast that way on ESPN and ESPN+.
“Disney Channel and Disney XD fans are, on average, 30 years younger than the ESPN audience”, Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s senior vice president of programming and acquisitions, told Variety. “Naturally, we ought to make things a little different to capture their attention.”
Big City Greens characters will be found skating alongside animated versions of actual NHL players in the game. The action seen on screen will follow the movements of the game. This will be possible due to the use of the NHL’s own technology that maps both players and the puck. Watchers will see a scene that looks like “players have been transported into their world,” says Ben-Hanan. ”The ice rink will look like the world of ‘Big City Greens,’ and so will even some of the stores in the background.”
This new way of showing NHL Hockey comes as The Walt Disney Company strives to integrate ESPN and NHL Hockey into its larger Disney brand and attract more viewers of all ages to the sport and broadcasts. This comes as Disney looks for more ways to monetize ESPN, which is now one of the three main segments of The Walt Disney Company.
What do you think about watching animated hockey? Would you watch it? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!