You: A hockey fan who wants to watch games with teams that aren’t local to where you’re currently living.
Us: The experts with the answers on how you can stream all the out-of-market NHL games you want. Keep reading!
In a hurry? If you’re a hockey fan, you absolutely need ESPN+, by itself for just $9.99/mo, or included with a Hulu + Live TV subscription. Not only does it carry all out-of-market games, it’s got almost all the other games, including up to 75 exclusive regular-season matchups you can’t watch anywhere else.
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In-market, out-of-market, blackouts, RSNs — one thing is for sure: it is really complicated to watch live sports these days. Complex broadcasting regulations, league stipulations, and the cable vs streaming battles have caught many fans in the middle. And just when you think you have it all figured out, that broadcasting agreement expires and everything changes.
We’re going to cut through all that malarkey and help you watch the National Hockey League games you want, cheaper than you might have thought you could. Let’s dive in.
What Is an “Out-of-Market” NHL Game?
Let’s start with a really brief description of out-of-market and in-market. If you want to skip all that and go directly to our recommendations, by all means.
The short version: the US is divided up into regional sports “markets” based loosely on concentrations of fans. “In-market” games are the games that are on the regional sports network available to you where you live.
For example, hockey games including the Philadelphia Flyers are in-network (and will be blacked out) to anyone who lives in the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast region. The Los Angeles Kings games are in-network to anyone who can pick up Bally West.
Out-of-market is the opposite: it’s all the games your local RSN doesn’t carry. So, in the above examples, Kings games are out-of-market to viewers in Philly, and Flyers games are out-of-market to folks in LA.
Another example: say you live in Nevada, and you’re a big fan of the Vegas Golden Knights. Because you live in Nevada, the Knights games would be in-network to you. You would need a TV provider that carries AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain because many Knights games won’t be nationally televised at all, and all the nationally broadcast matches will be blacked out to you.
But if that’s the case, then this article isn’t meant for you — you should head over to our guide to watching the NHL, which includes a straightforward chart of NHL teams, RSNs, and the services that carry them.
If, however, you live in Boston and a fan of the Golden Knights — you’re nowhere near AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain. The Bruins games would be in-market to you, and the Knights matchups (and all the other teams of the NHL) would be out-of-market. This article is for you. Keep reading.
Out-of-Market NHL Games: Options for Watching
As we just explained above, if you’re a non-local team fan, blackouts aren’t a problem for you. Your issue is the vast majority of ordinary regular-season hockey matchups that don’t get featured on national telecasts. If you were a local fan, you could watch them on a regional sports network. But there’s no way for a Bostonian to subscribe to AT&T Sportsnet Rocky Mountain.
So how can a Massachusetts fan stay on top of a Vegas team? That’s what we’re about to discuss.
National games are the big marquee matchups with the popular teams or famous rivalries. They’re found on just a handful of channels:
- ABC (17 games on Saturdays between mid-January and mid-April end of the regular season)
- ESPN (overflow on ESPN2) (7 games on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends)
- NHL Network (27 games, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays)
- TNT (overflow on TBS or HLN) (62 exclusive games, mostly on Wednesdays, plus non-exclusive games subject to blackouts)
Games featuring your local team will be blacked out, but if you’re not particularly interested in your local team, you can watch plenty of NHL live games with just these channels. If you’re a casual to moderate hockey fan who has never heard of “out-of-market games,” this is why — any given week over the regular season, you’ll be able to find at least a few games.
How effective this solution is for you depends on how popular your team is. If you’re a fan of the Avalanche, Bruins, or Penguins, you’ll catch them in a lot of nationally aired games, at least 13 each. If you follow the Ducks, they have only one match on TNT, and the Sharks, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Flames, Canadiens, Senators, and Jets have no nationally broadcast games in the US at all.
The following two streaming services offer all four hockey-broadcasting channels (or are fully covered by alternatives):
- DIRECTV STREAM: Has all the national channels, with the added benefit of the RSN you need for local games, just in case. (DIRECTV STREAM review)
- Sling TV: It doesn’t offer ABC in most markets, but all ABC matches are simulcast on ESPN3. With Sling Orange, you can watch most nationally televised games, including Stanley Cup playoffs, for just $40.00/mo, and with the Sports Extra add-on, you can watch them all. If you are also interested in other tournaments such as NBA and NFL, Sling TV can suit your needs. (Sling TV review)
Services that do not have all the channels needed for prime hockey viewing:
- Fubo (missing TNT)
- Hulu + Live TV (missing NHL Network)
- YouTube TV (also missing NHL Network)
NHL Power Play on ESPN+
If your favorite team is not local to you, then ESPN+ is where it’s at. That’s because ESPN’s streaming service has 1,150 out-of-market games as part of its NHL Power Play package. Don’t worry, the “NHL Power Play” thing is just branding — ESPN+ doesn’t charge extra for its “hockey package.” It’s included in the $9.99/mo, or $99.99/yr if you get it annually.
This means that if you are our hypothetical fan in Boston who follows the Golden Knights, you can subscribe to ESPN+ and be able to watch just about every regular season Knights game live — except when they’re playing the Bruins.
ESPN+ also has on-demand replays of every regular season and playoff game.
But that’s not all ESPN+ has for would-be armchair referees — it’s got NFL, MLB, PGA Tour, F1, tennis, MMA, tons of NCAA, and a growing collection of international sports, especially soccer (LaLiga, Bundesliga, FA Cup, and more). Plus ESPN+ originals, the entire 30 for 30 library, and much more.
ESPN+ comes as a stand-alone service for $9.99/mo. At the time of this writing, you can save extra by subscribing for a year at $99.99/yr.
NHL Center Ice
If you want or need to keep your existing cable or satellite provider, you can likely sign up for NHL Center Ice. Like ESPN+, Center Ice has over 1,000 games, available to out-of-market viewers. It also offers the benefit of being $30/mo cheaper than ESPN+, but, ESPN+ has over 30 exclusive games that Center Ice is missing, plus all the other sports listed above in the last section.
Also, if you subscribe monthly, a seven-month subscription of ESPN+ (for the duration of the regular NHL season) would be only $69.93 — or the same price as Center Ice.
If the only thing standing between you and watching the big game is your location, a VPN could be the answer. A VPN isn’t a TV provider, it’s a special kind of software that changes where the internet thinks you are. If you’re in Boston, the Bruins are in-market to you. But if the internet thinks you’re in Dallas, suddenly the Stars are blacked out instead.
This isn’t as useful to a fan of a non-local team, but it has its moments. Take the example of our beleaguered Knights fan in Boston. Remember how our hero won’t have any problem watching the majority of nationally broadcast Knights games, unless they happen to be playing the Bruins (if you’re unclear why, read about blackouts). Problem solved.
Unblock Your Favorite Events & Teams With a VPN
If you can’t watch your favorite events or teams because of your location, a VPN will allow you to get the access you are entitled to, plus extra security and unequaled privacy. Check out our VPN Guide for everything you need to know, including our top pick ExpressVPN.
Embrace Your Community
Or, if your package of providers and streaming services doesn’t quite stretch to cover all the games you’d like to see, you can always lean on a friend whose setup complements yours. Or visit a local sports bar (mmm, wings) that is willing to spring for ESPN+ or Center Ice.
Downsides: if it’s more than a couple of games, it could be more expensive than just subscribing to a service. Plus, that many wings could give you serious heartburn.
Devices for Watching Out-of-Market NHL Games
Each service has its own app (we know, we know), and its own list of compatible devices. However, all major services (which is any service that we recommend on this page, including the ESPN app for watching ESPN+) will support the most popular streaming devices. You know, the ones you’ve probably heard of:
- Amazon Fire TV (stick or cube)
- Android mobile
- Apple TV
- iOS (iPhone, iPad)
- Samsung smart TVs.
We think the choice is clear: whatever package you end up going with to watch the nationally televised games, anyone but the most casual NHL fans will want ESPN+. Between the exclusive games, the out-of-market games, and the simulcasting of ABC and ESPN games, it’s a winner — sign up today!
Is every out-of-market NHL game on ESPN Plus?
Short answer: yes. But, all the games under the NHL Power Play branding are subject to blackouts. It doesn’t do you any good for ESPN+ to carry the game if you can’t watch it. That’s why you need a backup, like a VPN. However, if your preferred team is out-of-market, this should be the exception rather than the rule.
Just to make things confusing, not all the NHL games on ESPN+ are under the NHL Power Play branding. ESPN+ will have its own pool of 50-100 exclusive games, and those won’t be blacked out.
Why does the NHL have blackout rules?
As usual, when something counterintuitive is going on, money is behind it. Sports teams contract with a TV outlet to broadcast their games, typically getting paid to make their games available to that provider. And teams in most sports make these contracts with regional sports networks (RSNs).
To enable your RSN to continue their contractually guaranteed monopoly on the local team’s games, the networks airing the national broadcasts are contractually forbidden to show them in the same area where the RSN is available.
Some quick numbers: the NHL has scheduled 1,312 games for the 2023-24 regular season. There are 32 teams that each play 82 games, 41 at home and 41 away. That means up to 82 potentially blacked-out games.
We say “potentially” because some exclusively broadcast, nationally televised games aren’t subject to blackouts, like the 50-75 matchups that specifically appear exclusively on Hulu and ESPN+.
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