How to watch blackout NHL games on ESPN+

How to watch blackout NHL games on ESPN+
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ESPN+ and NHL.tv are the two best platforms to watch NHL on, but their blackout rules can be quite frustrating for hockey fans in the US and Canada. To bypass ESPN’s blackouts and watch in-market or out-of-market NHL games, you’ll have to use a VPN that will change your IP address and give high speeds on servers in regions where the game you want to watch isn’t blacked out.

These restrictions are set in place due to licensing issues which prevent ESPN+ or NHL.tv from live-streaming certain games. Using a good VPN, you can circumvent ESPN+’s blackout of NHL and watch your favorite games no matter where you are.

In this article, you’ll find a list of the top 3 VPNs that are best for bypassing ESPN’s NHL blackouts.

How to bypass NHL blackouts on ESPN+

A VPN’s primary function is to mask your location and encrypt your online traffic, thereby allowing you to surf the web anonymously. Here’s how you can use a VPN to bypass NHL blackouts on ESPN+:

  1. Pick a VPN from our list.
  2. We recommend ExpressVPN as they both have a large server network in the US.
  3. Download and install your preferred VPN.
  4. Connect to a server where the NHL game you want to watch isn’t blacked out.
  5. Enjoy your game!

Why are NHL games blacked out on ESPN+?

According to the NHL's blackout policy, NHL games are blacked out on ESPN+ based on your location. Different broadcasting companies have exclusive rights to air certain games which makes it mandatory for ESPN+ to black out those games on their site.

To understand if a certain game will be blacked out in your region, you have to know whether you’re an in-market or out-of-market fan of a team. If you’re an in-market fan of a team, you’ll only be able to watch their games on your local regional sports network (RSN). However, if ESPN has the right to a game, RSNs won’t be able to air it.

For example, if you live in Detroit and you want to watch a Detroit Red Wings game, you’ll only be able to watch it on a regional sports network. It’ll be blacked out on ESPN+.

If you live in the US and you want to know if a local game is blacked out in your area, you can use NHL’s zip code lookup tool. International fans won’t be able to view a game on ESPN if it airs on an NHL partner network in their area.

NHL Network has the right to 75 games per season and if a game appears on it, it’ll be blacked out on ESPN+. These games can be viewed 48 hours after being live-streamed.

ESPN+ detects your location by reading your IP address or GPS/location services. When it determines that you’re from a region where the game you’re trying to watch isn’t available, it’ll return an error saying the game is blacked out. While signing up on ESPN, you have to enter your zip code which also gives away your location.

Best VPNs to bypass NHL blackouts

Don’t worry if you’re in a region where an NHL game you want to watch is blacked out because you can use a VPN to change your location and trick ESPN into thinking you’re eligible to view it. Here are our top 3 picks for the best VPN to bypass NHL blackouts:

1. NordVPN

NordVPN
Review 2022
1

9.6

/10

NordVPN
Pros & cons
  • Smart DNS for watching NHL games on streaming devices
  • 5000+ servers for bypassing ESPN blackouts of NHL
  • Fast speeds thanks to NordLynx
  • Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt data
  • No trial version for iOS and desktop

Our tests have shown that NordVPN is the best VPN service for bypassing NHL blackouts. With over 5000 servers, you can easily watch your favorite NHL game no matter where you’re located. You can watch on ESPN+ without the video stuttering thanks to the NordLynx protocol it uses.

Location Panama
Number of servers 5000+ in 59 countries
Price (yearly) $4.49 per month

With the help of Smart DNS, NordVPN will also work on streaming devices that don’t have a native app for it. Smart DNS won’t encrypt your data, so make sure you don’t share any sensitive information when watching on your streaming device.

You can get NordVPN’s yearly package with a 30-day money-back guarantee for $4.49 per month. It has a free 7-day trial version on Android.

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN
Review 2022
1

9.7

/10

ExpressVPN
Pros & cons
  • Over 3000 servers for streaming NHL games
  • Fast speeds thanks to Lightway protocol
  • Watch NHL games on incompatible devices with Smart DNS
  • Expensive

Using ExpressVPN to bypass ESPN’s blackouts of NHL games is as easy as pressing a single button. The VPN service has over 3000 servers, with many of them located in the US. With its proprietary protocol Lightway, you’ll get great speeds and security, though it’s hard to beat NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol.

Location British Virgin Islands
Number of servers 3000+ in 94 countries
Price (yearly) $6.67 per month

ExpressVPN also allows you to connect incompatible streaming devices to a VPN server with its Smart DNS feature “MediaStreamer."

ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer will let you watch NHL games on incompatible streaming devices. (Source: expressvpn.com)

ExpressVPN’s yearly package comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and you can get it for $6.67 per month. A free trial version is available on both Android and iOS.

3. Surfshark

Surfshark
Review 2022
1

9.2

/10

Surfshark
Pros & cons
  • GPS override for Android makes detection by ESPN more difficult 
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections 
  • More affordable than other VPNs
  • No app for router
  • Smart DNS doesn’t always work

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are leagues ahead of Surfshark on desktop, but it has a certain feature on Android that makes it much better than the other two. The “GPS override” feature will change your GPS coordinates so your location matches your fake IP address, allowing you to bypass ESPN’s blackouts of NHL games.

Location The Netherlands
Number of servers 3200+ in 100 countries
Price (yearly) $3.99 per month

Surfshark also has unlimited simultaneous connections, something that’s not present in NordVPN and ExpressVPN. This means your entire family can enjoy NHL games on their devices without you having to pay for separate subscriptions.

Surfshark’s yearly package is available for $3.99 per month and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

How to get around NHL blackout restrictions

With the help of a VPN, you can bypass the NHL’s blackout restrictions and watch whatever game you want from wherever you’re located. Let’s take a look at how to use a VPN to bypass ESPN’s blackouts of NHL on PC and smartphones.

Bypass NHL blackouts on PC

Bypassing NHL blackouts on PC using a VPN is easy. You first have to use the NHL's zip code lookup tool to see which area is eligible to live-stream your game on ESPN+.

NHL’s zip code lookup tool.

Once you’ve found a location, follow the steps below to connect to a VPN server:

  1. Pick a VPN you like from our list. We recommend NordVPN or ExpressVPN.
  2. Download and install the VPN on your PC.
  3. Search for a server in the location where your team’s game isn’t blacked out.
  4. Connect to the server and start watching the game!

Bypass NHL blackouts on mobile

On smartphones, bypassing NHL blackouts can be a bit tricky because the ESPN app or site can find out about your location through your GPS or location services. As mentioned above, Surfshark has a feature called “GPS override” which you can use to completely block ESPN from detecting your actual location.

Here’s how you can use a VPN on smartphones to bypass NHL blackouts:

  1. Choose a VPN. We recommend Surfshark because of its GPS override feature.
  2. Download and install the VPN on your phone.
  3. Open the ESPN app. If you’re on iOS, disable location services and don’t give the app permission to track you. If on Android, enable GPS override in Surfshark’s settings.
  4. Find a server where your team isn’t blacked out.
  5. Connect to the server and start watching!

Can I get around NHL blackouts with a free VPN?

Yes, a free VPN will change your location the same way a premium VPN would, but we don’t recommend it for several reasons. First, there are a limited number of servers on a free VPN so you won’t always be able to find a location where the game you want to watch isn’t blacked out.

Second, VPN servers are often blocked from accessing a site if it notices that you’re using a VPN. Free VPNs are easier to detect since their limited number of servers are being used by many people from around the world. If every server is blocked, you won’t be able to watch your NHL game.

Another reason is that most free VPNs are infamous for selling user data to third parties in order to make profit. They’re also very limited in terms of security features so you won’t be fully protected.

We recommend using a premium VPN like NordVPN to circumvent NHL blackouts.

ESPN+ not working with VPN?

If you’re unable to watch an NHL game even after connecting to a VPN, then try clearing your cache and cookies. Disconnect from the VPN before erasing cache, restart the browser, then reconnect to the VPN.

If it still doesn’t work, try connecting to a different server. It’s common for sites to block VPN servers so you have to keep trying different servers until you find one that works. You could also contact your VPN’s customer support and ask them if there’s any server they recommend for watching NHL games.

If you can’t find a good server, we recommend getting a dedicated IP address for an additional fee. It will be exclusively by you and it’ll make it very difficult for ESPN to find out if you’re using a VPN.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, ESPN+ is known for blacking out local NHL games. If you’re an in-market fan and you want to watch your local team’s NHL game, you’ll only be able to view it on your local regional sports network (RSN). It’ll be blacked out on ESPN since the RSN has exclusive rights to air it.

Yes, NHL Playoff games are blacked out just like any other NHL game. You’ll need a VPN to bypass ESPN’s blackouts. These are location-based restrictions so which team you’re blacked out from will depend on where you’re located. You can use the NHL's zip code lookup to see which teams you can watch in your region.

Yes, using a VPN is the best way to bypass NHL.tv blackouts. It’ll change your IP address, making it appear as if you’re based in a region where the game you want to watch isn’t blacked out. VPNs have advanced security features that make sure you get the best speeds while watching geo-restricted content.

NHL’s blackout policy says that NHL games can be viewed 48 hours after the game ends. ESPN+ blacks out NHL games while they’re airing on TV, which means as long as they’re live on TV, you can’t watch them on the ESPN site or app. Once the game is over, it becomes available in the game archive.