Jue. Mar 30th, 2023

Despite paying a lot of money to the NHL to broadcast the league on its networks, ESPN isn’t exactly winning over hockey fans.

On Thursday’s edition of ESPN’s «First Take,» Stephen A. Smith, Michael Kay and Molly Qerim were discussing which New York professional sports team will win a championship next.

Kay, the Yankees’ main play-by-play announcer, responded with the New York Rangers, citing the recent addition of Patrick Kane.

Smith and Qerim thought Kay’s response was off the mark.

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An overview of the completely renovated Madison Square Garden during a game between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens on October 28, 2013, in New York City. (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

«Oh lord… All I know about hockey is that the puck is black, and I love it [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman, that’s my friend, who I always go to hockey games with… football, basketball, baseball,» Smith said.

«They don’t count…» Qerim replied, saying he meant «no disrespect.»

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Later that day, Kay hopped on his ESPN New York radio show with co-host Don La Greca, the Rangers broadcaster. The ESPN hosts are close, but La Greca was «disgusted» by Smith’s comments.

New York Rangers' Filip Chytil (72) celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoff Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2022, in New York.

New York Rangers’ Filip Chytil (72) celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoff Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden on June 1, 2022, in New York. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

«I’m opposed to that. ‘Why are we sensitive?'» La Greca said on «The Michael Kay Show» when discussing why hockey fans didn’t appreciate the jab in their sport. «ESPN has rights. They broadcast games. They had the Stanley Cup final last year. And a major show of theirs just says they don’t count?…

«Stephen has to do a better job. He sits there, and they learn MMA, and he talks about MMA. They learn hockey, they talk about some hockey. I’m not saying you have to master every sport, but Michael says Rangers.» They do not count? And we’re supposed to say, ‘Yeah, I guess they don’t count.’ And are we sensitive? Give me a break. That’s bad work by Stephen. Terrible work by Stephen… I’m disgusted with him.»

Don La Greca, host of Edward Jones' Face Time, poses for photos in the NHL Powered by Reebok Store studio on May 9, 2014 in New York City.

Don La Greca, host of Edward Jones’ Face Time, poses for photos in the NHL Powered by Reebok Store studio on May 9, 2014 in New York City. (Thomas Nycz/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Kay had a pretty decent point. The Blueshirts reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and have only gotten better with many big trades in the past two weeks. The Nets and Knicks, despite the latter’s recent hot streak, aren’t exactly championship favorites.

The World Series (Yankees and Mets) won’t be played until the end of October, and the Jets and Giants will probably be out watching the Super Bowl in more than 11 months.

The Rangers sit third in the Metropolitan Division and can take on the Hudson River rival New Jersey Devils in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.

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