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How to watch blackout NHL Games

How to Watch Blackout NHL Games: Bypass Restrictions in 2024

Sports blackouts can make you feel like you're on thin ice, but before you explode with frustration, read our guide on how to watch blackout NHL games with a VPN.

Kit CopsonSandra PattisonIgor Kurtz

Written by Kit Copson (Writer, Briefing Editor)

Reviewed by Sandra Pattison (Writer, Editor)

Facts checked by Igor Kurtz (Fact-checking editor)

Last Updated: 2024-04-05T20:01:30+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

How to Watch Blackout NHL Games
  1. Visit a reputable VPN’s website and sign up for a plan.
  2.  Download and install the VPN on your device. 
  3. Connect to a VPN server outside the blackout zone and launch an NHL streaming service like ESPN+. Start streaming like normal. 

Facts & Expert Analysis: Bypass NHL Blackouts 

  • Blackout policies: If an NHL game is blacked out in your area, regional sports broadcasters have the right to stream it, but other services don’t. 
  • Bypassing NHL blackouts: You can work around blackouts by connecting to a U.S. server on a VPN in a location not affected by the blackout. A VPN changes your IP address. 
  • Best VPNs for blackouts: Only some VPNs are capable of bypassing blackouts. Among them are ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Best VPN for Bypassing NHL Blackouts

If you’re a sports aficionado, you’ll know that there’s nothing more frustrating than looking forward to a game only to find it unavailable in your area. However, if you have a decent VPN, these blackouts don’t have to be an issue. If you’re not sure how to watch blackout NHL games with a VPN, we’ll explain everything there is to know. 

A virtual private network (VPN) is an online security tool that works by assigning you a new IP address every time you connect to a server. If you get an IP address in an area outside the blackout zone, you’ll be able to securely watch the game you want with no hassle. 

Let’s jump straight into the tutorial for bypassing blackouts. Then, we’ll go through everything else you may want to know about VPNs and blackouts. 

How Do You Get Around NHL Blackouts?

If you’re not sure how to watch blackout NHL games on ESPN+, the steps below explain how to bypass NHL blackout restrictions with ExpressVPN, our number-one VPN recommendation. However, there are plenty of other reliable services, too. Keep scrolling to learn more about ExpressVPN and other options. 

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This example shows how to watch blackout games on ESPN+, but you can use a VPN to bypass geoblocks and blackout restrictions on other streaming services, too. For example, those in Canada can use a VPN to bypass blackouts on Sportsnet+. In this case, you would simply connect to a Canadian server outside the blackout zone. 

  1. Get a VPN

    Navigate to a reputable VPN’s website and go through the subscription steps. There are various plans, and many providers — including ExpressVPN — offer a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can try the VPN risk-free.

    get expressvpn
  2. Install the VPN

    Install the VPN app. If you’re on a PC, look for a “download” option on the website, then open the downloaded file once it’s ready. For mobile devices, download the app on the Google Play Store (Android) or the App Store (iOS).

    download expressvpn
  3. Connect to a Non-Blacked-Out Area

    Launch the VPN’s app and select a U.S. server in an area not affected by the blackout. Click the “connect” button.

    expressvpn app
  4. Start Streaming

    Open the streaming service and search for the NHL game you want to stream. Play it like normal.

    nhl espnplus

How to Watch Blackout NHL Games on Apple TV

If you want to watch blackout NHL games on Apple TV, you can download a VPN app (Apple TV has native support for several popular VPN services, including ExpressVPN and NordVPN). 

Simply go to the App Store on your Apple TV to search for and download your VPN of choice. Then, sign in and connect to a server outside the blackout zone. Launch the streaming app (ESPN+, Max, etc.) and watch the game. Note that VPN apps typically only support Apple TV models with tvOS.

The Best VPNs to Watch Blackout NHL Games

The best VPNs for streaming are those with a strong security record and that are tested regularly to ensure they continue to work well with streaming services. Here are two that fit the bill based on our years of testing and personal use. 

1. ExpressVPN — The Best Overall VPN for NHL Blackouts 

expressvpn afghanistan
ExpressVPN is a powerful provider packaged in a simple, easy-to-navigate app.

Pros:

  • Powerful streaming performance
  • Top-notch security features
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Pricey

ExpressVPN is ideal for watching blackout NHL games on ESPN+. Our tests have proven it to be a consistent, fast and stealthy streaming VPN. There’s nothing fancy about ExpressVPN’s app, which we appreciate, and even the most tentative beginner will find it easy enough to navigate. In short, ExpressVPN gets the job done in a no-nonsense fashion. 

We only have one con to mention: ExpressVPN’s pricing. Unfortunately, the plans won’t fit every budget, especially considering there are so many cheaper providers. However, we argue that no VPN does it better. There’s nothing to lose by trying out ExpressVPN with its 30-day money-back guarantee. Check out our ExpressVPN review to get into the real nitty-gritty. 

2. NordVPN — The Best Fast VPN for NHL Blackout Restrictions 

router vpn 2 nordvpn map
NordVPN’s blazing-fast speeds help you keep up with
your favorite NHL team, blackout or no blackout.

Pros:

  • Affordable long-term plans
  • Best on-average speeds
  • Plenty of U.S. servers

Cons:

  • Awkward mobile interface 

NordVPN is a budget-friendly alternative to ExpressVPN because it offers some low-priced, long-term plans (and a money-back guarantee) with plenty of extra features to pick from as needed. This VPN is almost neck and neck with ExpressVPN in all performance-related areas, and even takes the gold as the fastest VPN provider. Learn more in our NordVPN review

However, it could stand to smooth out a few edges, mostly related to usability. For example, though finding and connecting to a NordVPN server is no sweat, we find it’s easy to get lost on the world map on a mobile device. There’s a server list below it, but if geography isn’t your thing, the map aesthetic just takes up space. 

Can You Watch NHL Blackouts With a Free VPN?

Yes, you can watch blacked-out NHL games with a free VPN, but only a few are truly secure and capable of bypassing geoblocks, so exercise caution when choosing. In addition, free VPNs — even secure and private ones — come with certain limitations, such as limited server locations or data. 

If you’d like to try out a secure, free VPN provider, we recommend PrivadoVPN. PrivadoVPN has a nice selection of 13 free locations in 10 countries — the U.S. included — and works well with streaming services like ESPN+. As we touched on above, it does have a data limit of 10GB per month, but there are some competitively priced paid plans, too. 

Streaming Issues: How to Fix VPN Not Working on ESPN and NHL.TV

NHL.TV is a streaming platform for international subscribers, while ESPN+ is for those in the U.S. NHL.TV is no longer available in the U.S.

Sometimes, you’ll come face to face with every streamer’s worst nightmare: the error message. On ESPN+ and other services, this reads something like, “This content is subject to blackout” or “This broadcast is not available in your current location.” If you’re using a VPN for NHL blackouts on ESPN+ or another service but the game is still not available, try these options:

  • Refresh the browser or close and reopen the app. 
  • Restart the VPN app. 
  • Switch to a different U.S. server outside the blackout zone. Try a few if you still have no success. 
  • Change your VPN protocol. For example, if you’re using ExpressVPN and are on OpenVPN, try switching to Lightway or vice versa. You’ll find the protocols in the “options” or “settings” tab depending on the provider you’re using. 
  • Check for DNS leaks. VPN providers have various ways of letting you check this on their websites — on ExpressVPN, you can go to the DNS leak test page. 
  • If a DNS leak is detected but you’re connected to a VPN, follow your VPN provider’s instructions (these may vary by provider). Here are ExpressVPN’s DNS leak test page and NordVPN’s DNS leak information page for reference. 

Explained: Why Are NHL Games Blacked Out?

When sports fans launch a streaming service like ESPN+ and try to watch a game that’s not available to stream in that area, it can be perplexing and frustrating. Let’s take a look at what blackouts are and why they happen. 

Blackout Policy & Rules

If a blackout occurs, it means that a game cannot be broadcast in that area for contractual reasons. In the majority of cases, blackouts affect those who are located in a participating team’s home market or TV territory. Blackouts are put in place to protect regional broadcasters who have negotiated the rights to air that game. 

Blackout Detector & Blackout Maps

Neither the NHL nor ESPN+ provide an up-to-date or official NHL blackout map or detector. Based on information from ESPN’s blackout information page, those in the U.S. need to check local listings to find out whether a game is subject to blackouts. However, for sports fans in Canada, Sportsnet+ provides a game finder tool that shows the games available in your area. 

Workaround: Can You Watch Blackout NHL Games For Free?

Unfortunately, the U.S. services that host NHL games like ESPN+, Hulu and Max do not have free trials. Others, like TNT and the ESPN app, make you sign in with your TV provider credentials. ABC — which broadcasts some NHL games — is a free-to-air TV channel, but those who want to watch ABC broadcasts online need to do so via ESPN+. 

Which Streaming Services Have Blackout NHL Games & Playoffs?

For your convenience, here’s a table of services for watching NHL games in the U.S. and other countries. 

For the most extensive NHL coverage in the U.S. (blackout restrictions apply), you need ESPN+, ESPN, ABC and TNT. Live TV streaming services like Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and DirecTV Stream offer these channels (though only Hulu + Live TV has ESPN+), but regional coverage may vary and can be limited. Check to see if your regional sports network is included. 

Service:CountryPrice Per MonthNotes
 ESPN+🇺🇸 U.S.From $10.99ABC broadcasts are on ESPN+ but ESPN (channel) broadcasts are in the ESPN app.
Hulu with ESPN+ add-on🇺🇸 U.S.$10.99 (in addition to the base Hulu plan)ESPN+ broadcasts
Hulu + Live TV🇺🇸 U.S.From $76.99This comes with ESPN+ and other NHL channels like ESPN, TNT and ABC.
Max (B/R Sports add-on)🇺🇸 U.S.From $9.99 (outside of promotional periods, this must be added to your base plan)TNT broadcasts (also available on Watch TNT)
NHL.TV🌎 Most countries*Varies by countryN/A
Sportsnet+🇨🇦 CanadaStarting at around $15N/A
Viaplay🇬🇧 U.K.Starting at around $13N/A
Kayo Sports🇦🇺 AustraliaStarting at around $16N/A
*Excluding the U.S. and Canada

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been frustrated by NHL blackout games one time too many, we hope our guide on how to use a VPN to get around regional NHL blackouts has come in handy. 

Do you use a VPN when you need to stream an NHL blackout game? Which VPN has worked best for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below. Thanks for reading. 

FAQ: NHL Streaming Without Blackouts

  • Yes, you can watch blackout NHL games by connecting to a VPN server in the country you’re in, in an area outside the blackout zone. For example, if you want to watch a game that’s blacked out in Los Angeles, you could connect to a New York server.

  • Yes, it does. Purchasing a streaming service subscription won’t get around the blackout. However, a good VPN lets you bypass regional NHL blackouts.

  • You can watch NHL games that are blacked out by connecting to a VPN server outside of the blackout region.

  • Yes, it’s easy to skirt around NHL blackouts as long as you’re connected to an area outside the blackout region and are using a reputable VPN service like ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

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