National Hockey League on television

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Members of the TV media interviewing Washington Capitals players Alexander Ovechkin (no. 8, left) and Sergei Fedorov (no. 91, right) on ice after a game, 2009

The National Hockey League (NHL) is shown on national television in the United States and Canada. With 25 teams in the U.S. and 7 in Canada, the NHL is the only one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada that maintains separate national broadcasters in each country, each producing separate telecasts of a slate of regular season games, playoff games, and the Stanley Cup Finals.

National broadcasting rights in Canada have included Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC), a long-standing Canadian tradition that debuted on CBC Television in 1952. Since the 2014–15 season, Rogers Sportsnet has held the Canadian national contract, sub-licensing a slate of games to the CBC, and sub-licensing the national French-language rights to TVA Sports.

Historically, the NHL never held a long-term exclusive deal with a U.S. national broadcast network prior to the 1994–95 NHL season. NBC and CBS held rights at various times from 1956 to 1981, but neither broadcast network carried anything close to a full schedule. The NHL on a national scale primarily was only available on cable television throughout most of the 1980s and early 1990s until Fox began televising a regular slate of games in 1995. Since then, exclusive U.S. national coverage has been split between broadcast and cable. As of the 2021–22 season, the NHL is shown on the ABC network; cable networks ESPN, TBS, and TNT; and internet streaming services ESPN+ and Hulu.

Individual teams in both countries have contracted to air their games on local channels, primarily on regional sports networks.


Broadcasting rights in Canada have historically included the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC), a long-standing Canadian tradition dating to 1952,[1][2] and even prior to that on radio since the 1920s. The first NHL game to be broadcast on television occurred on October 11, 1952, a French-language CBC broadcast between the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings. CBC proceeded with its first English-language broadcast a month later on November 1, 1952, televising a game featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins.[3] Other previous Canadian broadcasters have included CTV, Global, TSN, Sportsnet; and French-language broadcasts on SRC, and RDS.

The current national television and digital rightsholder is Rogers Communications, under a 12-year deal valued at C$5.2 billion which began in the 2014–15 season. National English-language coverage of the NHL is carried primarily by Rogers' Sportsnet group of specialty channels. Sportsnet holds national windows on Monday and Wednesday nights (the former featuring Rogers Hometown Hockey, which features a pre-game show originating from various Canadian communities). Hockey Night in Canada was maintained and expanded under the deal, airing games nationally on Saturday nights throughout the regular season across CBC, the Sportsnet networks, Rogers-owned television network Citytv, and FX Canada. While CBC maintains Rogers-produced NHL coverage during the regular season and playoffs through a time-brokerage agreement with the company, Rogers assumes editorial control and the ownership of any advertising revenue from the telecasts.[4] Sportsnet's networks also air occasional games involving all-U.S. matchups.[5][6][7][8][9][10]

Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports (left) interviewing Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2016

Under a sub-licensing agreement with Rogers, Quebecor Media holds national French-language television rights for the NHL, with all coverage airing on its specialty channel TVA Sports. TVA Sports' flagship broadcasts on Saturday nights focus primarily on the Montreal Canadiens.[11][12]

Games that are not broadcast as part of the national rights deal are broadcast by Sportsnet's regional feeds (though some regional broadcasts may air nationally due to Sportsnet's current status as the NHL's Canadian national TV partner), TSN's regional feeds, and RDS. Sportsnet and TSN split holds regional rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs; Sportsnet holds regional rights to the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks, while TSN holds rights to the Montreal Canadiens (English only), Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets. RDS holds regional French-language rights to the Canadiens and Senators.

United States[edit]

From the 1950s to the early 1990s, the league's American broadcast partners remained in flux, airing on various broadcast and cable networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, the USA Network, SportsChannel America, and ESPN. Hockey broadcasting on a national scale was particularly spotty prior to 1981; NBC and CBS held rights at various times during that period, with each network carrying weekend-afternoon games during the second half of the regular season and the playoffs, along with some (but not all) of the Stanley Cup Finals. The NHL primarily was then only available on cable television, with no exclusive coverage of games, until Fox began televising the NHL during the 1994–95 season. Since then, exclusive U.S. national coverage has been split between broadcast and cable networks, first with Fox and ESPN from 1995 to 1999, then followed by ABC and ESPN from 1999 to 2004. After the 2004–05 NHL lockout, NBC and OLN (later renamed Versus, then NBCSN) televised the NHL until 2021.

The 2021–22 season marks the first year of seven-year agreements with ESPN and TNT.[13] ESPN's deal includes 25 regular season games on ABC or ESPN, and 75 exclusive games streamed on ESPN+ and Hulu (as such, games streamed exclusively on ESPN+ are not available to co-exist on American regional sports networks).[14] Turner Sports' coverage includes up to 72 regular season games on TNT or TBS (For the 2021-22 season, TNT will air 50 regular season games).[15][16] The playoffs will be split between ESPN and Turner, with ABC televising the Stanley Cup Finals during even years and TNT televising the championship series during odd years.[13]

As in Canada, games not broadcast nationally are aired regionally within a team's home market and are subject to blackout outside of them. These broadcasters include regional sports network chains such as AT&T SportsNet, Bally Sports, MSG Network, and NBC Sports Regional Networks. Certain national telecasts, such as selected regular season games and first round playoff games, are non-exclusive, and may also air in tandem with telecasts of the game by local broadcasters. However, national telecasts of these games are blacked out in the participating teams' markets to protect the local broadcaster.

Only a handful of regular season games, including the outdoor games, may be broadcast nationally in both countries. A Saturday night Bruins–Canadiens game, for example, would typically air on Hockey Night in Canada across that country but only regionally south of the border in the Boston area. Likewise, a Tuesday night Bruins–Canadiens game may air across the U.S. on ESPN or TNT but only regionally north of the border in the Montreal area.

NHL Network[edit]

The NHL Network's television panel at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver

The league co-owns the NHL Network, a television specialty channel devoted to the NHL. Its signature show is NHL Tonight (formerly NHL on the Fly), which covers NHL news, highlights, interviews, and analysis. The NHL Network also airs live games, but primarily simulcasts of one of the team's regional broadcasters.

There were originally two versions: one for Canadian viewers and a separate one for those in the United States. The Canadian version shut down on September 1, 2015, due to Rogers Communications' acquisition of sole national media rights to the NHL in Canada.

Out-of-market sports packages[edit]

NHL Centre Ice in Canada[17] and NHL Center Ice in the United States[18] are the league's subscription-based, out-of-market sports packages that offer access to out-of-market feeds of games through a cable or satellite television provider

The league initially launched NHL GameCenter Live in 2008[19] (later renamed in 2016), allowing the video streaming of out-of-market games over the internet, either through the NHL website, smartphones and tablets, digital media players, smart TVs, and video game consoles.

Per its exclusive national television and digital rights contract, Rogers Communications took over Canadian distribution and marketing of both the out-of-market TV and the internet services in Canada as of the 2014–15 season. A number of changes were made to the internet service, which was initially re-branded as Rogers NHL GameCentre Live. Canadian users access the service using a "MyRogers" login account instead of one directly on As part of the transition, Rogers also issued a free trial of the service, lasting through the start of 2015, to all Rogers cable and mobile internet subscribers.[20] The services offers access to national games, along with in-market streaming of regional games. For the first season, it only offered in-market streaming for teams that Sportsnet held broadcast rights to (excluding the Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, and portions of the Toronto Maple Leafs' season, whose broadcast rights are held by TSN) For the 2015–16 season, a TV authentication system was used to allow in-market streaming for TSN-produced regional games as well. Rogers GameCentre Live also offers "GamePlus", a component featuring alternate camera angles, such as net cams, point-of-view cams, and sky cams. The sky cam are currently only available for Air Canada Centre games, but the remaining Canadian arenas will be equipped for it in the future. GamePlus features were only available to GameCentre Live subscribers who are subscribed to Rogers' cable, internet, or wireless services.[21][22] For the 2018–19 season, Rogers discontinued the free trials, subscriptions, and additional GamePlus features to Rogers' cable, internet, and wireless service users, and required all users to pay the regular fees.[23] For the 2019–20 season, the brand name for the service was shortened to NHL Live.

On August 4, 2015, the NHL announced a six-year deal with MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), in which the company took over the operations of the NHL's digital properties, including websites, apps, and GameCenter Live, beginning in January 2016. MLBAM then distributed GameCenter Live under the new name in the U.S. and other international markets, except in Scandinavia (due to Viasat's right deal mentioned below), nor Canada (due to Rogers' rights deal mentioned above). The NHL also gained an equity stake of up to 10% in a spin-off of MLBAM's streaming media business, whose clients include Major League Baseball, WatchESPN, and HBO Now among others.[24][25][26]

As part of ESPN's media deal that began in the 2021–22 season, the NHL's out-of-market internet services in the United States was incorporated into the ESPN+ streaming service.[14] That same year, NHL Live in Canada became available at no extra cost to subscribers of Sportsnet Now Premium.[27] Starting in 2022–23 season, the separate NHL Live service will be discontinued and all games will be incorporated into Sportsnet Now Premium.[28]


Outside of Canada and the United States, NHL games are broadcast across Europe (excluding the UK and Scandinavia) and the Middle East and North Africa on beIN Sports, which takes feeds from NBC, Rogers, and teams' regional broadcasts. In the UK Premier Sports has the rights to the NHL and show 15 games per week. Fox Sports in Australia,[29] on Viasat Hockey in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark,[30] in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on NovaSport or FandaTV and in Portugal on SportTV.[31] In the Americas, NHL games are broadcast across Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic on SKY México, South America and the Caribbean on DirecTV. Stanley Cup games can also be viewed in New Zealand on Sky Sport. In Brazil, the games are broadcast on ESPN International.

The aforementioned is also available for people in most countries to watch games online, but blackout restrictions may still apply if a game is being televised in the user's country; for example in the UK where they are not allowed to show live games that are being shown on Premier Sports. For those in selected international markets where ESPN also holds the streaming rights, they must instead access games on the ESPN platform used in that particular country: ESPNPlayer, ESPN Play, the ESPN App, or Star+. And those in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Norway, and Sweden must use Viaplay.[32]

Comparisons with TV coverage of the other major leagues in the U.S.[edit]

With 25 teams in the U.S. and 7 in Canada, the NHL is the only one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States that has a national Canadian broadcaster regularly produce separate telecasts of a slate of regular season and playoff games. If a game is televised nationally in both countries, then the separate Canadian and U.S. feeds of the same game may be broadcast on two networks simultaneously in those areas in Canada that can receive U.S. stations and those regions in the U.S. that can receive Canadian stations.

This is most prominent during each league's respective championship series or game, where the U.S. broadcaster's feed of the National Football League's Super Bowl, Major League Baseball's World Series and the National Basketball Association Finals is usually simulcast by a Canadian broadcaster (with simultaneous substitution of the commercials). With the prominence of Hockey Night in Canada since the 1950s, and with Canadian teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens making multiple championship runs during the 1970s and 1980s, the Stanley Cup Finals has regularly been produced and aired on broadcast television in Canada for decades. Meanwhile, U.S. national coverage of the NHL evolved much slower than those of the other three leagues, and long-term coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals remains on U.S. cable television in some form with Turner Sports agreeing to air the series on TNT in 2023, 2025, and 2027.[15]

Primary regional broadcasters[edit]

Steve Cangialosi (centre) providing play-by-play, alongside color analyst Ken Daneyko, for a MSG regional broadcast of a New Jersey Devils game
Regional network Team(s)
Altitude Sports Colorado
AT&T SportsNet
(incl. Root Sports)
Pittsburgh, Seattle, Vegas
Bally Sports Anaheim, Arizona, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Tampa Bay
MSG Networks Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers
NBC Sports Regional Networks Chicago, Philadelphia, San Jose, Washington
New England Sports Network Boston
Montreal, Ottawa
Sportsnet Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto (partial), Vancouver
TSN Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto (partial), Winnipeg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (2005). "HNIC in 2005–06". Archived from the original on February 10, 2006. Retrieved June 19, 2006.
  2. ^ (2005). "Hockey Night in Canada: A history of excellence". Archived from the original on February 10, 2006. Retrieved June 19, 2006.
  3. ^ Shoalts, David (2018). Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Faceoff over the NHL. Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 978-1-7716-2205-9.
  4. ^ Shoalts, David. "Hockey Night in Canada: How CBC lost it all". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  5. ^ "500-plus NHL games to air under Rogers deal". Sportsnet. February 4, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  6. ^ "Rogers reaches 12-year broadcast deal with NHL worth $5.2-billion". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. November 27, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  7. ^ "Rogers scores national NHL TV rights for $5.2B". CBC News. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  8. ^ "NHL deal with Rogers a huge blow to TSN and CBC: Mudhar". Toronto Star. November 26, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  9. ^ "CBC partners with Rogers in landmark NHL rights deal". CBC Sports. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  10. ^ Bradshaw, James. "Rogers' Hockey Night in Canada will be a whole new game for viewers". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved October 12, 2014.
  11. ^ "NHL, TVA Sports launch French-language agreement". Retrieved 21 September 2014.
  12. ^ "NHL signs 12-year TV, Internet deal with Rogers; CBC keeps 'Hockey Night in Canada'". Toronto Star. November 26, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "NHL moving to Turner Sports is $1 billion risk-reward for hockey". CNBC. April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "NHL back on ESPN with 7-year multiplatform deal". ESPN. March 10, 2021. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Turner Sports inks 7-year deal with NHL, will air 3 Stanley Cup finals". ESPN. April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  16. ^ "ESPN, Turner release NHL schedules for 2021-22 season, featuring 78 regular season games on cable and broadcast". Awful Announcing. 2021-09-16. Retrieved 2021-09-18.
  17. ^ "NHL Centre Ice (Canada) official website". Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  18. ^ "NHL Center Ice United States official website". Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  19. ^ "Hands on: 2.0 goes top shelf with streaming video". Ars Technica. September 25, 2008.
  20. ^ "Rogers will allow you to watch even more NHL games online this season ... just not all of them". National Post. Archived from the original on 18 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  21. ^ "Rogers GamePlus has NHL angles covered, but app will come at a price". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  22. ^ Lewis, Michael (16 March 2015). "Rogers wins right to offer GamePlus exclusively to subscribers". Toronto Star. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  23. ^ "Rogers Customers Vent as Free NHL Live Absent for 2018-19 Opener". Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  24. ^ "Pro Baseball's Streaming Video Unit Gets Ready for a $3 Billion Spinoff by Adding Pro Hockey". Re/code. Vox Media. 4 August 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  25. ^ "MLB's Tech Unit Wins NHL Streaming Business". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  26. ^ "A closer look at NHL's partnership with MLBAM". Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  27. ^ "SN NOW+ Adds Free NHL LIVE Access and Out-of-Market Games". Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  28. ^ "Canadian NHL fans won't be able to access NHL Live in 2022-23". The Province. June 15, 2022. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  29. ^ "Fox Sports 1 [501]". Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  30. ^ "Mtg: Viasat acquires NHL broadcasting rights from ESPN". Cision July 16, 2009. Archived from the original on August 9, 2009. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  31. ^ "Sport TV Home Page". sport Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  32. ^ "Where to Stream". Retrieved August 27, 2021.

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