124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

First Skate

Hockey fans, welcome to the Stephen A. Smith era. Buckle the **** up

March 12, 2021

If you're a hockey fan, you were probably thrilled to see that ESPN and the NHL agreed to a seven-year TV rights deal that includes lots of streaming. Not only will that make more hockey available on various platforms, but the knock-on effect is that ESPN will obviously pay a lot more attention to the sport. On SportsCenter, on radio, and in writing, expect to encounter hockey content from the Worldwide Leader in ways you haven't seen in years, and for hockey media personalities to be hired en masse.

But when hockey gets the ESPN treatment, it really gets the ESPN treatment, and you, the average hockey fan, won't get to choose which direction that rocketship careens. More games, more writing, more highlights . . . yes. All great. But my friend, you are also gonna get some hardcore Stephen A. Smith. It has already begun:

If you don't mind being yelled at for four minutes about things that are tangentially related to hockey, this is actually a pretty funny clip, and it peaks at the end with "the puck is black." I also didn't know that Damien Woody is an Islanders fan, or that the mythical Kraken is from, um, "the 1800s." All great knowledge to have.

Do you love it, hockey fans? Do you hate it? Either way, the best advice is to find your inner Buddha and practice radical acceptance. With the good news that hockey is back on ESPN, you also get that other news. Stephen A. Smith is part of your life now, and as the rest of us learned years ago, there is no escape.