The NHL’s return to play plans are continuing, with games set to begin in hub cities Edmonton and Toronto later this month. Exhibition games will start in the last week of July, and then the qualification and round-robin (seeding for already-qualified teams) rounds will begin August 1. And in the U.S., NBC and affiliated cable channels NBCSN and USA will show every postseason game through August 5 (the last date before the-if-necessary games kick in), albeit with some games joined in progress and with some regional blackouts for games also carried on local RSNs.
Most of those games will be on NBCSN, which will also show four exhibition games on July 28 and 29. And NBCSN is also expected to carry most of the games post-August 5 (even though that full schedule isn’t set yet thanks to the if-necessary games). And the joined-in-progress games will be visible in full on NHL Network, as per a league release that also details the Canadian schedule. But apart from that, here’s NBC’s national U.S. schedule through August 5:
|Tues., July 28||Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Wed., July 29||Carolina vs. Washington||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Chicago vs. St. Louis||NBCSN||6:30 p.m.|
|N.Y. Rangers vs. N.Y. Islanders||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Sat., August 1||Game 1 – Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||Noon|
|Game 1 – Chicago vs. Edmonton||NBC||3 p.m.|
|Game 1 – Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Game 1 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh||NBC||8 p.m.|
|Game 1 – Winnipeg vs. Calgary||NBCSN||10:30 p.m.|
|Sun., August 2||Game 1 – Arizona vs. Nashville||USA Network||2 p.m.|
|Round Robin – Boston vs. Philadelphia||NBC||3 p.m.|
|Round Robin – St. Louis vs. Colorado||NBCSN||6:30 p.m.|
|Game 1 – Columbus vs. Toronto||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Game 1 – Minnesota vs. Vancouver||NBCSN||10:30 p.m.|
|Mon., August 3||Game 2 – Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||Noon|
|Game 2 – Winnipeg vs. Calgary||NBCSN||2:30 p.m.|
|Round Robin – Washington vs. Tampa Bay||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Round Robin – Dallas vs. Vegas||NBCSN||6:30 p.m.|
|Game 2 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Game 2 – Chicago vs. Edmonton||NBCSN||10:30 p.m.|
|Tues., August 4||Game 2 – Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders||NBCSN||Noon|
|Game 2 – Arizona vs. Nashville||NBCSN||2:30 p.m.|
|Game 2 – Columbus vs. Toronto||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Game 3 – Winnipeg vs. Calgary||NBCSN||6:30 p.m.|
|Game 3 – Carolina vs. N.Y. Rangers||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Game 2 – Minnesota vs. Vancouver||USA Network||10:30 p.m.|
|Wed., August 5||Game 3 – Florida vs. N.Y. Islanders||NBCSN||Noon|
|Game 3 – Arizona vs. Nashville||NBCSN||2:30 p.m.|
|Round Robin – Tampa Bay vs. Boston||NBCSN||4 p.m.|
|Round Robin – Colorado vs. Dallas||NBCSN||6:30 p.m.|
|Game 3 – Montreal vs. Pittsburgh||NBCSN||8 p.m.|
|Game 3 – Chicago vs. Edmonton||NBCSN||10:30 p.m.|
And here’s their comment on what this will mean blackout-wise:
Games airing on NBC are exclusive. All games on NBCSN and USA Network will be blacked out in the local markets as they will be available on viewers’ local RSNs. Blackout rules apply to streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Some games will be joined in progress.
This is somewhat similar to what we’ve often seen in early rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but one change here is that there’s less usage of the rest of NBC Universal’s networks. The regular playoffs have often seen some games pushed to USA, MSNBC, CNBC, or even the less-carried Golf Channel, but this time around, it’s pretty much all NBCSN for this week of action, with three weekend games on NBC proper and then two games on USA.
However, it’s also interesting that this seems to be a step back in terms of regional blackouts. In the past few years, NBC was able to make its national feed available in most markets for the first couple of playoff rounds alongside local coverage on the RSNs. Now, that national feed won’t be available thanks to these blackouts. So if you live in a market where games are shown on the RSN, you’ll have to be able to access that RSN.
What will you need to watch these games? Well, NBCSN is in most cable or satellite packages, and as of our January evaluation of streaming bundles, it was available on all of AT&T TV Now, YouTube TV, Sling TV and Hulu+ Live TV. It’s also available on fuboTV. So watching national games here shouldn’t be too bad in most streaming bundles.
Watching full games that start on NHL Network may be harder. NHL Network is available on fuboTV, in some Sling packages, and in some top-tier AT&T TV Now packages, but it isn’t on YouTube TV or Hulu+ Live TV. And there are also plenty of cable and satellite packages that don’t include it. But if you’re fine with games being joined in progress after other games finish, NBCSN/USA/NBC will cover you from a national perspective.
But if you’re a fan of a particular team from the area you live in, getting around the RSN blackouts may be trickier. (Our list of RSN blackout areas, including for hockey, can be found here; it’s a starting point on what you may miss with these blackouts.) And that’s especially true through a streaming bundle; availability of those RSNs often goes market-by-market and bundle-by-bundle. This list from The Streamable is a good starting point on what networks are available where. There’s also the regular out-of-market NHL.tv package, which their page currently says is available for $4.99 overall or $3.99 for a single-team package; however, NHL.tv often comes with a lot of blackouts (including of nationally-broadcast games as well as local team games), and it’s not particularly clear right now how that’s going to work with this restart.
Thus, to sum it all up, the coverage plans for this initial week of action are heavily NBCSN-based, and that’s pretty good for fans, as that channel’s in most pay-TV packages. It’s in a lot more packages and a lot more homes than smaller NBCUniversal networks like Golf Channel; the last Nielsen coverage estimates data we’ve seen, from April 2019, had NBCSN with an estimated 82,844,000 homes and Golf Channel with an estimated 69,844,000. But if you’re particularly following one team, and if they’re in the area you live in, you’re going to need a subscription to the local RSN that carries their games to get around the local blackouts.