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How to watch the NHL on ESPN

NHL Vegas Golden Knights
(Image credit: Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

ESPN, along with TNT, will be the place to watch the NHL for the next seven years. It’s a change for hockey fans who have been used to NBC’s coverage of the NHL since 2005, but ESPN has big plans for the sport, including emphasizing regular season hockey on streaming.

The NHL had previously been on ESPN as recently as 2004, and it returns to the network with a double-header to open the season on Oct. 12, featuring the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the two newest teams to the league, the Vegas Golden Knights against the brand new Seattle Kraken. 

ESPN’s 2021-2022 broadcast of the NHL will include 103 exclusive regular season games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN Plus and Hulu (75 on ESPN Plus/Hulu, 28 on ABC/ESPN), in addition to more than 1,000 out-of-market games available on ESPN Plus.

The basic weekly schedule will have ESPN Plus and Hulu hosting Tuesday night hockey broadcasts throughout the season, as well as an exclusive game every Friday night until January, then switching to every Thursday night. Starting in February, ABC will have weekly Saturday broadcasts.

This will all lead up to the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, which ESPN will share evenly with TNT through the first three rounds, with the Stanley Cup Finals alternating between the networks each year of the deal. ESPN will have the Stanley Cup Finals for the 2021-2022 season, its first of four as part of the deal.

Here’s everything else that you need to know about watching the NHL on ESPN for the 2021-2022 season.

ESPN and ABC NHL game schedule

Below are all of the NHL games that will air exclusively on ESPN and ABC for the 2021-2022 season (with simulcasts on ESPN Plus when noted). What to Watch will compile the full schedule for exclusive NHL games on ESPN Plus in a separate post.

(All times ET)

Oct. 12
Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. (also on ESPN Plus)
Seattle Kraken at Vegas Golden Knights, 10 p.m. (also on ESPN Plus)

Oct. 19
New York Islanders at Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. 

Oct. 26
Vegas Golden Knights at Colorado Avalanche, 8 p.m. 

Jan. 6
Minnesota Wild at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. 

Jan. 13
Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. 

Jan. 20
Colorado Avalanche at Los Angeles Kings, 9:30 p.m. 

Feb. 24
Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. 

March 3
Boston Bruins at Vegas Golden Knights, 9 p.m. 

March 24
Dallas Stars at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. 

April 12
Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m.

April 14
Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars, 8 p.m.

April 19
Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. 

April 21
Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning, 8 p.m.
St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m.

April 26
New York Islanders at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.
St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche, 9:30 p.m.

(All ABC games will simulcast on ESPN Plus)

Nov. 26
St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks, 1 p.m.

Feb. 5
2022 NHL All-Star Game, 3 p.m.

Feb. 26
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3 p.m.

March 5
Chicago Blackhawks at Philadelphia Flyers, 3 p.m.

March 12

Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Hurricanes, 3 p.m.

March 19
New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m.

March 26
Chicago Blackhawk at Vegas Golden Knights, 3 p.m.

April 2
Pittsburgh Penguins at Colorado Avalanche, 3 p.m.

April 9
Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3 p.m.

April 16
Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues, 3 p.m.

April 23
New York Rangers at Boston Bruins, 3 p.m. 

How to watch the NHL on ESPN

When the puck drops on the 2021-2022 NHL season, here is what you will need to have in order to watch any of the above games airing on ESPN, ABC or its related streaming services.

First, ABC is one of the four major broadcast networks that is available in essentially every local TV market across the country. Because of this, it is carried on any basic cable or satellite pay-TV provider and can also be accessed through a TV antenna; simply check your local listing to learn what channel it is on. ESPN, on the other hand, is a premium cable channel, and while it is still available on practically all pay-TV subscriptions, you do need to ensure that it is included in the deal that you are subscribed to; ESPN is not accessible through a TV antenna.

Both ABC and ESPN, however, are available through live TV streaming services. Fubo TV, Hulu with Live TV and YouTube all offer ABC and ESPN through their basic packages ($65 per month). Sling TV provides access to ESPN through its Sling Orange package ($35 per month). These services provide live streams of all content on these networks, which will include their NHL games.

The first couple NHL games on ESPN and all of the games on ABC will be simulcast on ESPN’s streaming platform, ESPN Plus. If you’ve cut the cord and streaming is your primary viewing method, you can simply add ESPN Plus to your streaming lineup by subscribing to the service, which runs for $6.99 per month (a seven-day free trial is available), and can be watched on your TV, mobile device or computer. 

There will also be NHL games that will stream exclusively on both ESPN Plus and Hulu, though it will be Hulu with Live TV. A couple of subscription options are available for Hulu, including a $5.99 per month plan that is ad-supported and an ad-free plan that costs $11.99 per month. You can combine ESPN Plus and Hulu into a single plan along with Disney Plus via the Disney Bundle, which makes all three streaming services available for $13.99 per month. 

If these streaming or broadcast options are not immediately available for you, another option to watch some of the NHL games airing on ABC and ESPN this year will be to access a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN is designed to route network traffic through a specific set of servers in a specific country, allowing viewers to watch content on an encrypted feed over a computer. 

ExpressVPN is one of the easiest and affordable ways to watch what you want from anywhere you want to watch it. Plus it'll help keep your network traffic away from any prying eyes on public networks.

And it's a great way to keep up with action from anywhere in the world.View Deal

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.