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Brent Burns

ESPN gets back in the hockey game with the World Cup

The NHL is back on ESPN, for a limited time only.

More than a decade after the league and the top U.S. sports network split up, they're reunited for the World Cup of Hockey. Starting with exhibition games Thursday and continuing Sept. 17 when the tournament begins in Toronto, live games with NHL players will be all over the ESPN airwaves for the first time since 2004.

ESPN won the exclusive rights to the two-week tournament over NBC, the NHL's current U.S. broadcast partner. The World Cup on ESPN has reignited the debate over whether hockey needs the network in order to grow in popularity in the U.S.

"I think it's good for hockey in many ways," San Jose...