How to watch the NHL
With the cooler temperatures comes the coolest sport of all—hockey. The NHL season ends in June, so if you don’t have a way to watch it, you're missing out.
Unfortunately, ensuring you get every game you want can be a complicated process. To help you out, we’ve rounded up all your options for watching the NHL, whether you just want your home team’s games or need to catch every matchup you can get your hands on.
The best ways to watch the NHL
- DIRECTV: DIRECTV is the best satellite provider for sports in general. It offers a ton of content, including specialty channels like NHL Network. It’s got all the regional channels you’ll need, the DVR system is solid, and the price is good. It’s hard to go wrong with DIRECTV for sports fans.
- Xfinity: If you don’t want satellite, our second pick is Xfinity. This cable provider has a large amount of sports content, along with one of our favorite DVR systems, and the overall experience is top-notch.
- Hulu + Live TV: If you prefer to cut the cord, Hulu + Live TV is your best bet. It’s got the best all-around spread of NHL content, as well as tons of other goodies. The price is also reasonable, considering Hulu's on-demand library is ncluded.
- Sling TV: If you just want the cheapest live streaming option for NHL games, Sling TV is your service. With prices as low as $40 per month, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal.
If you want to watch every NHL game
As with most sports, NHL games are spread across multiple channels, and their availability varies based on your location. This is due to a web of complex contracts, exclusive rights, and regional sports networks (RSNs).
This can also lead to some blackouts, or games you just can’t find. For these games, you can look at the official NHL blackout information page.
In-market games feature your local team or directly impact your team in some way, like games that will impact who plays your team in the playoffs.
Out-of-market games are all other games, aside from a handful that are broadcast nationally.
To get every NHL game, both in-market and out-of-market, you’ll need the following channels:
- ESPN+ (a premium channel)
- Access to regional sports networks (usually through a TV subscription)
ABC, ESPN, and TNT are widely available with most television and live streaming services, so these aren’t much of a problem.
ESPN+ is a premium service that costs $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year) and offers a lot of content for sports fans. For NHL fans, in particular, ESPN+ is your best source of out-of-market games. NHL Center Ice also carries them, but ESPN+ has more out-of-market NHL games, as well as non-NHL programming.
Finally, regional sports networks (RSNs) carry a lot of the in-market games. These channels can complicate a cord-cutter's approach to watching the NHL, because the only one really carried by any streaming service is NBC, and then, only on certain services (YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV are the main options). You’ll likely need a TV service subscription to pick these channels up, though you might be able to catch some with an over-the-air (OTA) antenna.
How to watch in-market NHL games
In-market games are those of your local team. Without a premium package like ESPN+, these will make up the majority of the NHL games you have available. They can be found on ABC, ESPN, TNT, and various RSNs. These are all available in the majority of TV packages, so many people will automatically have access to them.
If you don’t have a TV subscription, you can get ABC and a number of regional sports channels with an over-the-air antenna. ESPN and TNT are not available over the air. You can also opt for a live streaming service like Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV. These will have ABC (in almost all locations), TNT, and ESPN, but will lack most of the RSNs.
It’s really a toss-up between which is better—we’d say if you watch a lot of TV besides sports, the streaming service is worth the money, but if you don’t, you’ll still get quite a few games with an antenna and broadcast TV.
How to watch out-of-market NHL games
Out-of-market games are those for teams outside your locale. These will make up the majority of NHL games in a season. With most sports, you need a special (usually premium) service, and the NHL is no different. In this case, you have two options: NHL Center Ice and ESPN+.
NHL Center Ice is more affordable at $69.99 per season, and it’s widely available as an add-on among TV providers. ESPN+ is pricier at $99.99 per year (or $9.99 per month). However, it carries games that Center Ice doesn’t, and also offers content for other sports. It’s also available as a bundle with Hulu and Disney+, so if you already have one or both of these services, you could save a significant amount of money. For these reasons, we generally recommend going with ESPN+.
How to stream NHL games
If you’re considering joining the legion of cord-cutters out there, you may be wondering how you’ll get your hockey fix. Don’t worry—there are several options:
- ESPN+: ESPN+ is your source for out-of-market NHL games. It’s also available as a streaming app, so you can watch without a TV subscription. ESPN+ starts at $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year).
- DIRECTV STREAM: DIRECTV STREAM is exactly what it sounds like—a streaming version of the DIRECTV service. DIRECTV STREAM starts at $69.99 per month, and of course, offers a lot more than just NHL games.
- Sling TV: Sling TV is one of the most affordable live streaming TV options. Sling TV starts at just $40 per month and covers almost all of the NHL content you’ll need. The main issue here is a lack of regional sports coverage, which might mean you miss some in-market games.
- Hulu + Live TV: Hulu + Live TV offers most in-market games, and plenty of other content as well. It also includes the regular Hulu streaming service. Prices start at $69.99 per month.
- YouTube TV: YouTube TV costs about the same as competing streaming providers, and it offers a lot of content for the money, including everything you need to catch most in-market NHL games. You’ll still get those incredibly persistent ads on the “regular” YouTube, however. Starts at $64.99 per month.
- Of the streaming options, DIRECTV STREAM is the only way to get all the channels you need. Hulu and YouTube TV have ABC (in most locations), ESPN, and TNT, but limited regional sports networks (RSNs). Sling TV only has ESPN and TNT—no ABC, and no regional sports networks at all.
Get your game on
Whether you’re a die-hard hockey fan or just a casual fan of all sports, it’s hard to beat the excitement of an NHL game. If you want the best NHL experience, we recommend DIRECTV or Xfinity. Cord-cutters can get a similar selection with Hulu + Live TV, and the budget-conscious can get a great deal with Sling TV.
To take your games to a whole new level, check out our roundup of the best TVs for sports.
Dave Schafer is a freelance writer with a passion for making technical concepts easy for anyone to understand. He’s been covering the world of gadgets, tech, and the internet for over 8 years, with a particular focus on TV and internet service providers. When he’s not writing, Dave can be found playing guitar or camping with his family and golden retriever, Rosie.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.