The National Hockey League will return to network television after a 16-year absence with five playoff games Sunday afternoons on ABC, the network announced Wednesday.
The package does not include the Stanley Cup finals and there are no games in prime time. The last time playoff games were shown on network TV, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito were active.
"The league is anxious to increase the exposure for NHL hockey and we view this network exposure, coupled with ESPN's coverage this season, as important first steps in this regard," commissioner Gary Bettman said.
ESPN, which bought the NHL's television rights this season, purchased the broadcast time from ABC, its parent company. The cable network will produce the games and provide the commentators. ESPN also will carry up to 37 playoff games, including every game of the Stanley Cup finals.
ABC telecasts will run from April 18 to May 16 with two division semifinals, two division finals and one conference championship.
_ The Associated Press contributed to this report.