By: Casey Shea

It is not often that I use this forum to get up on a soapbox, but there are times when things must be brought to light.

In this case, it revolves around ESPN’s complete disregard for the game of hockey.

Most of you are probably saying, “They haven’t covered the sport for years, where have you been?”

This latest incident goes beyond the laughable mentions of hockey scores during a SportsCenter broadcast, or how Barry Melrose gets paid handsomely (I’m guessing) to be on television for a couple minutes a week.

This is about a complete disregard for one of the worst tragedies to hit the sports world in decades.

During their 2011 Year In Review, they paid tribute to the athletes who had died this past year.

Not one hockey player was mentioned in the list. No mention of Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard or Wade Belak.

That’s not even the worst part about it.

To completely ignore the Lokomotiv plane crash tragedy is downright absurd and disrespectful.

An entire team was lost, with several of the players having ties to the NHL.

You can’t tell me that back in the days when ESPN actually paid attention to the sport (yes, they did exist) that they don’t have interviews with some of the players who lost their lives.

This is arguably the worst tragedy to hit the sports world since the Marshall University football team was also lost in a plane crash in 1970.

(Just as some additional research for you to chew on: In 1958, a plane carrying the Manchester United football (soccer for those keeping track) squad went down. In all, 23 people died in the crash.)

According to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog, here’s the list of players who were featured on the show:

  • Al Davis
  • Bubba Smith
  • Dan Wheldon
  • John Mackey
  • Lee Roy Selmon
  • Hideki Irabu
  • Dave Duerson
  • Duke Snider
  • Walt Hazzard
  • Harmon Killebrew
  • Joe Frazier

From a journalistic standpoint, I understand shying away from suicides during coverage. That’s usually protocol in a newsroom.

If that’s what ESPN was operating under for leaving out Rypien and Belak, fine. But, why is Irabu on the list?

I’ve long since gotten over the fact that ESPN’s tagline as the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” is far from being accurate. The person who came up with it is probably laughing their way to the bank knowing the absurdity of it.

For a company that employs thousands of people, to have roughly four on staff dedicated to an entire sport is pathetic – three of which are mainly only on the website.

lokomotiv crash 124364323 Shea ved Ice: ESPN Has No Love For Lokomotiv

(Photo credit: Maxim Shipenkov/AFP/Getty Images)

Maybe I, and many of the hockey fans I’ve spoken with about this, wouldn’t be so angered by this lack of respect for Lokomotiv had ESPN always been like this.

Remember the days when ESPN would show at least two to three playoff games a night and when NHL 2Night was a mainstay?

So do I, and for a network to just turn its back on a sport it once covered feverishly is mind-boggling.

Was it something Gary Bettman said? Did the lockout burn any bridges the NHL had with ESPN? Is there some other ulterior motive for ESPN’s blatant disregard for the NHL?

I have no answers to these questions, but it’s all that comes to mind when trying to figure this out.

Maybe ESPN is just too cool for the coolest game on Earth. I don’t know.

Regardless of what politics are going on behind the scenes, there’s absolutely no excuse for not mentioning the Lokomotiv plane crash in any year-end piece.

It crossed over from sports into news. Everyone was talking about it and how sad of a situation it was.

There is no one on the list above that was lost on that scale. The hockey world was simply rocked by this event.

I’m not an avid KHL fan, I had not met any of those who were lost, but this event still stung me as a hockey fan and supporter of the game itself.

  • My hat is off to Broad Street Hockey(calm down Pens fans) where a list is being updated to reflect the deaths of anyone with ties to the hockey world this past year. Check it out here. 

A major event like that goes beyond the scope of the sport to which it was contained. This was a blow to the sports community as a whole.

I’m not taking away from anybody’s importance on the above list of names, but you will not convince me that they were any more or less important than Lokomotiv.

I’d love to hear ESPN’s reasoning for this egregious omission, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

I’m sure we’ll get an explanation when NHL highlights work their way into their shows in a prominent way.

Or when the NHL shows some consistency in its supplemental discipline, whichever comes first.

You can follow me on Twitter at

For More Penguins Coverage Check Out Puck Talk With Popchock.


More Shea-ved Ice Blog
More Sports News

More Penguins News
Pittsburgh Penguins

Watch & Listen LIVE