So I've spent a couple of painstaking days researching the viewing options specifically for out of market viewers like myself regarding ESPN+ and NHL Center Ice specifically.
As we all know, ESPN+ advertised themselves as the replacement for NHL TV. If you're like me you watched most of the past couple of seasons on NHL TV. In the past what that has meant as an out of market viewer is you get to watch pretty much every Devils game because typically we do not get a lot of national TV coverage.
For the last month of so everyone has been talking about the ESPN+ schedule that was released outlining a total of 14 games to be televised on ESPN+. I was one of those anxious people.
My calls to ESPN+ Support were not very fruitful. The actions of their agents was to simply go to the ESPN+ website and read the schedule to me. I was told by them that I would only be able to watch 14 games, which I said sounded weird because they were advertising an out of market package as well. Nobody could tell me what that was.
So I turned to Twitter and sent a few tweets to the ESPN Support Twitter account. At first the answer was the same: they sent me the link to the schedule. I probed further, asking them about being the replacement for NHL TV. This is the answer that I got:
Hi Scott. If the games are not being broadcast on TNT or the NHL Network, you will be able to watch via ESPN+ (out of market). Apologies for any confusion ~GR— ESPN FAN SUPPORT (@ESPNFANSUPPORT) October 11, 2021
So there you have it: Out of Market viewers will be able to view NHL Network. Kind of. As the great Billy Mayes once said: "But wait.. THERE'S MORE!"
The important piece of that statement is "If the games are not being broadcast on TNT or the NHL Network." Checking the Devils schedule and my local cable provider, I found that the home opener friday is, in fact, on the NHL Network. So if you go with the ESPN+ option you will not be able to watch the home opener.
My next stop was to contact Comcast, my cable provider, to inquire about NHL Center Ice. To sum up what I was told by them:
As long as the game is not broadcasted on the NHL Network, TNT or the USA/NBC networks they will be available with NHL Center Ice. Simply put: as long as the game is not nationally televised or on NHL Network you will be able to see it with NHL Center Ice.
So what did I have to do?
Comcast quoted me a price of $60 for the regular season for NHL Center Ice. I went with it. Whether or not you choose that or ESPN+, which offers other sports, probably will depend on your personal taste and what you want from a sports network. Personally, I very rarely turn on ESPN, and my schedule has relegated my European Football viewing to the English Premier League, and baseball season is in the playoffs, my sports viewing will be relegated to hockey and some local college sports which I can view with my existing cable package.
NHL Network is NOT included with NHL Center Ice from Comcast. I can't tell you whether or not it is with infinity, so that meant I had to add another package for $9.99 that includes a number additional channels like NFL Red Zone, the NFL Network, ESPNU, Turner Classic Movies, and the MLB Network to name just a few. So I'll probably get something out of that. And I cancel the package at any time so once the Devils are done with the NHL Network I can always move on from this package if it doesn't work.
So to summarize: in order to watch the entire season as an out of market fan I went with NHL Center Ice and a package that gave me the NHL Network. That will give me pretty much all of the games that are not blacked out locally or televised nationally.
Also to summarize: ESPN+ will give you a comparable experience except you will not be able to watch the season opener without the NHL Network as part of your cable package.
For those of you in market, I've heard a lot about certain cable companies removing MSG from their lineups. Unfortunately I was not able to do a lot of research about the viewing options that may or may not be available in its absence. This makes no sense to me. I will say that searching hard enough should reveal some solutions that don't involve illegal streaming. Stay the course. You'll find an answer.
I hope this helps!