The headache Of streaming popular North American sports is part of a drawn-out transition from broadcast television that’s been hampered by a ludicrous number of regional and national deals that remain largely in place even as audiences move to streaming. As a cord-cutting puckhead, your task isn’t easy. But with a little fancy footwork, you can watch every game that matters to you without running cable or erecting a wonky satellite dish. Here’s how.
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Sling TV splits its channel lineup into Blue and Orange tiers. Some channels are shared between both while others are exclusive to one tier or the other. To watch the maximum number of NHL games, you need to bundle both. Sling TV offers a discount if you buy them together.
You can watch regional games on ABC, TNT, and TBS, as well as national games shown on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3. Add the Sports Extra add-on for $11 more per month and you also get NHL Network, which shows NHL preseason games as well as some highlight shows and daily news. The big downside is that Bally Sports, Spectrum SportsNet, and MSG Networks, major regional broadcasters, aren’t included.
For the casual hockey fan who lives in the broadcast market for their favorite team, the Sling TV Orange + Blue package without NHL Network makes the most sense if you weigh the number of games against dollars spent. Also, when you see the attractive discount offers on Sling TV’s homepage, know that your first month is half off, but after that it reverts to its full price.
Best for Diehard Fans
Drop the extra money for the entry-level Entertainment tier of DirecTV Stream, which does not require a satellite dish or an annual contract, and you get access to all the regional and national broadcasters, such as ABC, TNT, TBS, ESPN, ESPN2, MSG Sports, Spectrum SportsNet, and Bally Sports.
Then, to make sure you can watch the rest of the games on the regular-season schedule, pick up ESPN+ for $10 per month or $100 per year to watch the out-of-market and exclusive nationally televised games not included in your DirecTV Stream package. The whole kit and caboodle comes out to $85 per month, but NHL Network is available only on the Ultimate and Premier tiers for $110 and $155 a month, respectively, if you want to watch those preseason games badly enough. That means to get absolutely everything, you’d need the Ultimate tier and ESPN+ for a combined total of $120 per month.
If your primary concern is the NHL, there’s not much of a reason to step up to the $100-a-month Choice tier, anyway. You pick up ESPN News, which is fine but not worth the big jump in price. One weird word of warning: NHL Center Ice is available as an add-on for a regular DirecTV satellite subscription but not as an add-on to DirecTV Stream.
Best for Out-of-Market Fans
Pity the sports fan, such as yours truly, who lives far from the home base of their beloved, favorite sports team. Except when it comes to watching them on TV. Freed from the Byzantine web of regional blackouts and restrictions, a fan can stream all out-of-market games on ESPN+. Not only that but there are 50 exclusive games shown on ESPN+ too.
Just remember that if your favorite team plays a game in an enemy arena—say you live near Chicago, and your Carolina Hurricanes play the Chicago Blackhawks on their home turf—then that becomes an in-market game and you won’t be able to see it on ESPN+. Still, no single streaming service is as comprehensive as ESPN+ for out-of-market viewers.