Earlier today, both ESPN and Warner Brothers-Discovery announced their national broadcast schedule for the 2023-24 NHL season. The New Jersey Devils will have 16 games receiving national coverage in this upcoming season. 13 of the 16 are exclusive with national coverage with the remaining three being blacked out in the local area for MSG Networks. For the Disney side of coverage, 2 will be on the ESPN channel, 5 will be on ESPN+/Hulu, and the Stadium Series game against Philadelphia will be on ABC. Yes, ABC. For the WB-D side, 8 games will be on TNT; three of these are subject to the local blackout. A number of games have had their start times shifted 30 minutes as a result of the coverage. The Devils announced the full list on their official website. I will include my own thoughts for each:
- October 12, 2023 - Devils vs. Detroit - The season opener at home is an ESPN+/Hulu exclusive. This is the most disappointing part as the first game is limited to ESPN+ for those not attending it live. Moving the start time back 30 minutes is a little annoying for me at least. At least the People Who Matter around the world can better access this than MSG Plus.
- October 25, 2023 - Devils vs. Washington - This is the first TNT game of the season. With the Devils on the rise and the Capitals fading away, I would be curious as to see how this is marketed. Oh, who am I kidding, the Caps side will be all about Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Ovechkin, and even Ovechkin.
- November 7, 2023 - Devils at Colorado - This will be on TNT and both Devils-Avalanche games this season will be kept to national coverage. Which makes sense given it is a Jack Hughes vs. Nathan MacKinnon matchup plus a burgeoning Luke Hughes vs. Cale Makar matchup.
- December 7, 2023 - Devils at Seattle - Thjs one will have a 7:30 start time and will be on ESPN proper. It will depend on how the season is going, but I am anticipating a Jack Hughes vs. Matty Beniers angle being propped up for this one.
- December 13, 2023 - Devils at Boston - This one is set for TNT and it is the first to be blacked out for the local area. If you get MSG Networks, then you will have to watch it through MSG Networks. Boston is going to be one more intriguing teams to watch this season. Last season had many predict a downfall for the B’s and they went on to win well over 60 games. Will this be a more disappointing season for the Spoked B’s? If so, that may be how this game is pushed.
- December 21, 2023 - Devils vs. Edmonton - This one is set for ESPN+/Hulu only and it is also pushed back 30 minutes. I do not know about that decision. Why not put a potentially compelling Hughes vs. McDavid matchup on the main ESPN channel? Why not flip this with the Seattle game?
- January 3, 2023 - Devils at Washington - This is for TNT and it is the second game to be blacked out for the local area. How the October 25 game goes may figure into how this one will be presented. This is also one of two rematches getting national coverage; although, there will be other Devils-Capitals games outside of this national schedule.
- January 25, 2024 - Devils at Carolina - This is for ESPN+/Hulu and also got a 30 minute push back. This is a rematch from the 2023 playoffs and that carries its own narrative. Plus, the two teams should figure on contending for the Metropolitan once more. My question: Why is this kept to ESPN+/Hulu only?
- February 6, 2024 - Devils vs. Colorado - This one is limited to ESPN+/Hulu as well and it is the second and final season game against the Avs. This is also the second of two rematches on the national coverage schedule. I would figure on similar talking points from the November game, but it will be of some interested to see how it differs given that the November game was a TNT production.
- February 17, 2023 - Devils vs. Philadelphia - This is the Stadium Series game and it will be on ABC and ESPN+. Yes, ABC. As in the network channel that everyone gets. All for the MetLife game. My suggestion to the Devils: make the most of this opportunity. It is not like Philly will want to win a heap of games this season anyway.
- February 25, 2024 - Devils vs. Tampa Bay - This is for TNT and it is the third and final game to be blacked out for the local area. These games have been good ones if a bit nervy at times. TNT should get a good one; but it will be Bill and Dano for the locals. Expect a lot of trade talk on the broadcast as the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline is on March 1, 2024 for this upcoming season.
- March 3, 2024 - Devils at Los Angeles - This is also for TNT only. What makes this game interesting is that the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline is on March 1, 2024. Expect a lot of trade-related talking points and questions. Such as: How different will each team look? What did they do? It could liven up the road game.
- March 7, 2024 - Devils vs. St. Louis - This is for ESPN, the channel, and I do not get it. I am unsure what compels the network to want a Devils-Blues matchup, which is not going to have a lot of juice to it, while relegating more interesting games to ESPN+/Hulu. Whatever, it is not my network schedule to make.
- March 17, 2024 - Devils at Las Vegas - This is for TNT and it is at least a game against the defending champion Golden Knights. The last Devils game in Nevada featured a stupefying got goalie’d game that went to a shootout. Previous games in LV have went wild for the good guys. This could be a real fun one based on history.
- March 26, 2024 - Devils at Toronto - This is for ESPN+/Hulu and it is the last one of the season. Given the number of Name Players on Toronto and how much Toronto takes up the space of the Hockey Media, I am a little surprised this is kept to streaming-only. Oh well.
- April 3, 2024 - Devils at Our Hated Rivals - This is for TNT and it involves the Devils’ biggest rivalry. Always a good choice for national coverage. It addresses a gap in from last year’s national coverage announcement too. Given how both teams have done in 2023-24, there could be some real stakes beyond just satiating the desires of the fans of each side wanting to see their team prevail. Also, this is the only game in this schedule where the start time was moved up; from 7:30 PM to 7 PM.
The Devils’ own post about the schedule notes that the most exclusive national broadcasts a team is allowed is 13. The Devils have reached the maximum on that. It is also an improvement of four more games. The Devils were originally scheduled to have 9 games last season between ESPN and TNT; all being on the road. They were given four additional ones. Even with that, this season’s national coverage represents another improvement including home games, a pair of rematches, and some compelling player matchups. Outside of the season opener being kept to ESPN+/Hulu, it is hard to not see this announcement as a good thing.
This is because this is evidence of the Devils’ improved place in the hockey world. After a wildly successful 2022-23 season, the Devils are being given more opportunities to show their worth to others. They have young stars in Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Timo Meier. Plus a potentially burgeoning one in Luke Hughes. The team is now expected to contend and that always helps networks decide who to put on air. They have a Stadium Series game on top of an array of games. Sure, I wish some of those ESPN+/Hulu games were on ESPN or ESPN2 instead, I wish ESPN+ was more affordable (at least they have kept Leah Hextall away from the booth), a Devils game in San Jose would have been a good choice for Timo Meier’s return, and blackouts in an age of streaming is stupid. Yet, more coverage from the national partners is always a good thing. The Devils will still have to perform well in those games, but they will have to anyway to reach the higher expectations they will have for 2023-24. Those of you who wanted the Devils to get more attention and respect are getting that with 16 nationally covered games.
What do you make of the 16 Devils games getting national coverage this season? Are you pleased that the Devils are getting more games on ESPN and TNT compared with last season? Are there any big omissions on this schedule? Which games are you looking forward to? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about these announcements in the comments. Thank you for reading.