GUIDE: How to Watch the NHL on TV, Streaming and more

GUIDE: How to Watch the NHL on TV, Streaming and more

With the National Hockey League (NHL) regular season almost wrapped up, we are just a few weeks away from the thrill of playoff action. For fans, finding the right viewing options to capture the magic is crucial, with over 1,000 games being distributed across an array of national and regional broadcasters.

Table of contents:

  • NHL Viewing Options
  • Regional Blackouts
  • Comparison of Services
  • Editor’s Choice
  • How to watch the NHL for free
  • Season Schedule and Important Dates

Editorial rating (4.2/5)
Fubo Sports US
Service type: TV Streaming Service
Price: Basic Plan from $79.99/mo.
Benefit: 7 Days Free Trial

Whilst it might be difficult to get your head around the different options, the good news is that the quality of live games, news and in-depth analysis has never been better. Here is a run-down of your options and our opinion on what brings the best value.

Overview of Viewing Options

If you are hoping to tune into NHL action, you will need access to some or all of the following:

Regional Blackouts and Workarounds

Regional blackouts are the bane of any sports fan’s life, implemented to protect the local broadcast rights of regional sports networks that air games. This can, frustratingly, result in limited access to live games for fans within certain geographical regions. These are primarily in place to encourage attendance at local games and to give priority to local broadcasters, who have paid for the exclusive rights to the games. Watching these games will require access to the relevant regional sports networks (RSNs) which isn't always easy. A very useful tool to determine what is considered in-market for you is the RSN Lookup Tool by DirecTV. Enter your zip code into this to help you identify whether an out-of-market package is required.

Whilst restrictions may limit your access to certain games via your streaming or cable package, you might be able to use a robust Virtual Private Network (VPN), which encrypts your personal data, masks your IP address and allows you to slide past blackout restrictions. Proceed with caution on this route though. Whilst VPNs are very useful, some can have poor security and privacy flaws. Sticking to the big ones, such as NordVPN or Surfshark, is the best way to execute this method.

If that sounds too complicated for you, then you also have the option of finding a screen that is showing it at a local bar or friend's house, or perhaps you are lucky enough to attend the game in person.

Detailed Comparison of Services

When it comes to choosing your service, there is a lot to consider. If you want to maximize your viewing time and tune into as many games as possible, then a combination may be your best bet. If you are happy to miss out on the occasional game, then you might be able to save some money.

Cable and satellite options:

Platforms such as DirecTV, Cox, Dish and Verizon Fios all show NHL Network and the other channels you need. Their costs will be much higher than that of ESPN+ and NHL Center Ice, but you benefit from a much larger library of channels to choose from. Going down this route might be a good idea if you are ready to treat yourself to a much broader viewing experience.

  • Cox - $61.00–$152.00 per month
  • DirecTV - $69.99–$159.99 per month
  • Verizon Fios - $69.00–$129.00 per month

Streaming services:

There are lots of streaming options out there to choose from, giving you the major channels that you need. Unfortunately, none of them will give you access to all of the regional sports networks (RSNs) required to catch every single game, but they do all show some of them. The best streaming options are Fubo TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV, giving you access to all the major channels you need. SlingTV is a slightly cheaper option, giving slightly less variety in channels, but all the essentials required to keep the average fan happy.

Each will have a different set of RSNs available, but none have them all. Your best bet is to flick through the offering of each one and decide which you prefer.

ESPN+ & NHL Center Ice

If you truly want exposure to as many games as physically possible, then ESPN+ and NHL Center Ice are going to be your best friends. NHL Center Ice can be bolted onto most cable and satellite providers and streaming platforms, coming in at $69.99 a season. This will give you access to 1,000 out-of-market games, which is by a long way the best of any service we have mentioned here today. It also includes the NHL Network, which is a massive bonus.

Editorial rating (4.5/5)
Service type: Streaming
Price: $10.99/mo. - 109.99/yr.
Benefit: Exclusive on-demand videos

There are, however, a few games that remain unavailable to even NHL Center Ice subscribers, thanks to ESPN+ getting themselves 50 exclusive matches. Upgrading to ESPN+ will not only give you access to these 50 exclusive games but also to a variety of other live sports. ESPN+ costs you $109.99 a year, giving you ultimate NHL access. You can also take on a monthly payment option and cancel it after the season finishes, costing $10.99 a month.

Editor’s Choice:

The best cable choice has to be DirecTV’s Choice Plan, which treats you to all the national NHL channels (except ESPN+ and Hulu) you need, in addition to having the widest selection of RSNs on the market. Of course, due to the nature of our television industry, you will still find a good chunk of games are unavailable, so partnering this option with ESPN+ is our favored route. DirecTV will give you a wide variety of channels to choose from aside from the NHL, and their contracts aren’t as daunting as their competitors.

For out-of-market games, ESPN+ is the clear-cut favorite. If you are happy to miss out on ESPN+’s 50 exclusive games, you can save a bit of money and opt for the $69.99 NHL Center Ice package. If you would prefer to have those exclusive games, ESPN+ at $109.99 a year is an excellent cheaper option for diehard fans. Pairing this with DirecTV’s Choice package will give the ultimate NHL viewing experience and the best value.

How to Watch the NHL for Free

The ability to watch the NHL for free will depend on your access to the correct broadcast networks via digital antennas. Some nationally televised NHL games can be watched like this, but the games might be far and few between.

To get a more consistent run of NHL action for free, you can utilize the streaming platform’s free trials by doing one after another. Platforms such as Hulu, YouTube TV or fuboTV typically offer 7-day free trials, which can be used one after another to maximize your exposure to the NHL.

PLEASE NOTE, it is very important that you remember to cancel your free trial when it ends, otherwise you will be charged, and it’s not cheap.

Season Schedule and Important Dates:

  • October 10th: 2023/24 Season start
  • October 29th: NHL Heritage Classic
  • November 16-19th: NHL Global Series (Sweden)
  • January 1st: NHL Winter Classic
  • February 2nd-3rd: NHL All-Star Weekend
  • February 17-18th: NHL Stadium Series
  • March 8th: Trade Deadline
  • April 18th: End of the regular season
  • April 22nd: Stanley Cup Playoffs
  • June 3rd: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 (estimated)

Author: Venuse, Inc