Steve Levy (L) and Barry Melrose on the National Hockey Night set in 2000. (ESPN Images)


Today, ESPN announced a landmark new agreement with the National Hockey League. While the agreement is new, one part of ESPN’s NHL coverage that starts this fall will feel nostalgic for longtime hockey fans.

For its live NHL game telecasts, ESPN will be bringing back the iconic ESPN NHL theme music that was first introduced to viewers in 1992 as the theme on ESPN’s National Hockey Night. Created by composer Bob Christianson, the theme fired up NHL fans through 2004, and has continued to make occasional appearances ever since.

The music, which brings back fond memories for many, is currently the theme for the nightly ESPN+ program In the Crease, hosted by Linda Cohn, and it also has been used on ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s Frozen Four since 2014.

The launch of the hockey music in 1992 was just the latest of many projects Christianson had done for ESPN.

“When ESPN first started, a good part of the music that was on ESPN was mine, maybe even the majority,” he said. ““I had baseball, NCAA basketball, NBA basketball, hockey.

“They liked what I did,” he said. “Almost always it was a competition. It would be me and whoever else they worked with, and I’d do two or three demos and send it to them, and if they liked it, then I got the gig. My relationship with the people at ESPN was good in the sense that at least I got asked to compete.”

Christianson told Front Row in 2014 that he estimated he spent 25 hours composing the NHL theme music, which included recording hockey sounds at a Buffalo Sabres game.

The NHL music’s longevity is pleasing to Christianson, whose career has touched not only sports but also television programs such as HBO’s “Sex and the City.” He has composed more than 30 sports themes for different networks.

“I’ve written so many sports themes, and some of them I’m really happy with, and some of them not, but that’s one of the ones that I’m really happy with – it just came out really good,” he said. “It did what it was supposed to do.”

So much so that fans will hear it again this fall.

“As excited as we are about our new agreement with the NHL, we’re also very excited that we will be bringing back the ESPN hockey theme music that is very familiar and iconic to hockey fans,” said ESPN Senior Vice President, Production and Remote Events, Mark Gross. “We’re in the very early stages of getting ready to launch our coverage, but there was never a question as to what the music would be.”

Hockey Voices Feel Strong Connections To NHL Theme Music

(L-R) Linda Cohn, Steve Levy and Barry Melrose talk about the Stanley Cup Final on ESPN+’s “In The Crease.”

Steve Levy, Barry Melrose, Linda Cohn and John Buccigross have been the voices of hockey on ESPN since the early 1990’s; Melrose as hockey analyst and Levy, Cohn and Buccigross supporting the sport in their roles as SportsCenter anchors.

Cohn also is now the primary host of the nightly ESPN+ program In the Crease, with Buccigross as fill-in. Levy and Melrose have covered the Stanley Cup Final together 25 times, and Buccigross and Melrose have teamed in the booth for ESPN’s telecasts of the last seven editions of NCAA Men’s Frozen Four.

All have strong connections to the iconic ESPN NHL theme music that is being reprised this fall. Their thoughts:

Steve Levy

“Even just the first few notes triggered something in my head … it was as if the start of the theme meant good things were about to happen. Now mix in the siren and the flashing red goal light, and you just knew the hockey party was about to begin. Iconic. I look forward to hearing it again very soon and quite often. “

Barry Melrose

“We did NHL 2Night shows every day, and we did the playoffs, every game. So like hundreds of times in a season, the NHL on ESPN music would come on. And even today, if I’m doing a hit on TV with Levy, Bucci or Linda Cohn, they’ll put that old music on and it’s just like we’re doing the show from 1994. I think back to working with [the late] John Saunders and all those guys. The music at ESPN is great and just tells you in that moment, where you were at that time. The music really sets the tone. I just love it.”

Linda Cohn

“There’s something about music that brings us comfort. Hearing the theme music for the show I host, In The Crease on ESPN +, brings me right back to the glory days of the 90’s when that music was an anthem, and it felt like home for hockey fans watching games on ESPN.”

John Buccigross

“Music and sport have always inexorably connected. TV shows had to have a theme song. Some instrumental and some with lyrics and music. Music is an attention-getter and ESPN’s National Hockey Night music and NHL 2Night themes were designed to increase the heart rate with dramatic brass and pounding drums. It sounds dated, and I like that. It defines a specific time and conjures up feelings of youth, fun, and possibility.”

–Andy Hall and Michael Skarka