May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN has told the National Hockey League it won't exercise a contract option to televise games for the 2005-06 season, network spokeswoman Diane Lamb said today.
NHL spokesman Frank Brown declined to comment. ESPN and the NHL can still negotiate until June 1, a deadline that was established by the sides in early April. Both sides declined to comment on whether they'll meet further.
The cable network had a $60 million contract to show NHL games this season, which was lost because of a labor dispute between owners and players. The NHL became the first professional U.S. sports league to wipe out an entire year because of labor trouble when Commissioner Gary Bettman canceled the season on Feb. 16.
A divorce from ESPN, the top-rated cable channel, would hurt the NHL, a league whose revenue from television is waning. The NHL received $600 million over five years under its previous contract with ESPN and Disney's ABC that expired after the 2003-04 season.