With no live games thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, several leagues are offering archival content for free. The NFL announced free NFL Game Pass subscriptions through May 31 on Wednesday, and the NBA announced a free preview of NBA League Pass through April 22 later that day. The NHL is now following suit, announcing Thursday that beginning Friday, they’ll make replays of all 2019-20 games available for free through April 30 via NHL.tv (US) or NHL Live (Canada). They’ll also make classic games and selected longform content available, and they’re showing content from the 2020 NHL Gaming World Championship. Here’s more from their release:
As the National Hockey League (NHL) community continues to practice social distancing and take all necessary precautions during this ever-changing time, the League will continue to help fans stay connected to the League’s players and the game by providing access to unique content and archived games. Starting Friday, the NHL will serve fans with an increased offering of video, editorial and digital content on NHL.com, the NHL app and across the NHL’s social channels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok by providing fans access to an expansive selection of classic NHL games, longform content from the NHL Original Productions’ vast library and free access to stream full replays of games from the 2019-20 regular season.
Starting Friday and through April 30, the NHL and Sportsnet have decided to make full replays of all 2019-20 NHL regular-season games already played available to stream on demand. The games will be accessible via the scores and schedule pages of NHL.com and the NHL app and in Canada via NHL LIVE. For additional details on accessing the games visit NHL.TV or (in Canada) NHLLive.com on Friday.
The NHL will launch the “NHL Pause Binge” on NHL.com and on its official YouTube channel, which will consist of a curated collection of NHL Original Productions content, from the critically-acclaimed, behind-the-scenes programs “Road to the NHL Winter Classic,” “Behind The Glass” and “NHL All Access” to full-length classic NHL games dating from the 1950s to present day. NHL.com and NHL Social daily programming will include fan favorites “This Day in History” and “Players to Watch: Next Gen,” profiles on top rookies and draft prospects, a look back at top Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final moments, and much more.
The 2020 NHL Gaming World Championship™ featuring the best EA SPORTS™ NHL® 20 HUT™ players in the world is underway. Gamers are showcasing their skills and testing their talent against one another for a chance to raise the championship trophy and take home their share of $150,000+ USD, the largest prize pool in NHL gaming history. Fans can follow the conversation on social using hashtag #NHLGWC and by visiting www.nhl.com/gaming.
It makes some sense for the NHL to try and keep fans thinking of the league during these times by releasing this archival content, and it’s logical for them to offer this for free in the wake of the NFL and NBA doing similar things. It’s also nice to see them doing this in both Canada and the U.S., as the league has a lot of fans on both sides of that border. And bringing in some Road to the Winter Classic and Behind The Glass documentary content is a smart move as well; sports documentaries are a logical source of programming at this point, and both of those series have done a good job of giving fans an inside look at teams and players.
This is still a rough time for hockey fans, with no games and no real idea when there will next be games. The latest update, from John Wawrow and Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press earlier this week, saw the league say it couldn’t provide guidelines on even reopening practices for 45 days, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman adding “Nobody knows how long the hiatus may be.” And that was before the league’s first positive test for coronavirus (an unnamed Ottawa Senators’ player, with that result announced by the team Tuesday night and with Hailey Salvian and James Mirtle of The Athletic reporting that “It is believed that multiple Senators players are ill and awaiting test results.” And NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside Wednesday that the league’s priority was a full 82-game season in 2020-21, so that may mean no resumption of the current season at all. At least fans will now be able to watch some replays and archival content, but there may not be any new hockey for quite some time.