NHL Center Ice is an out-of-market sports package that is distributed by most cable and satellite providers in the United States and Canada.
The package allows its subscribers to see up to 40 out-of-market NHL games a week using local and national television networks.
NHL Center Ice includes Canadian broadcasts, such as The NHL on TSN and CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. It also has included out-of-region games broadcast on NBC.
Occasionally, French-language feeds from RDS may be used if no English-language broadcast is available.
Broadcasts from Rogers Sportsnet are also shown. Pay-per-view games (e.g. Edmonton Oilers) are included as well.
For some cable viewers and those subscribing via Dish Network or DirecTV, both teams' feeds are available for most games.
Other cable subscribers may be limited to only one feed and also have a smaller selection of high-definition games.
Some providers offer high definition broadcasts when available. A number of providers put Center Ice on the same channels as MLB Extra Innings.
Hockey often gets priority because the conflict occurs during April, at the end of the regular season and beginning of the playoffs.
A free preview is usually shown during the first three weeks of the NHL season and right after (or a few weeks after) the All Star Game (or the Olympic break in years when the Winter Olympics occur).
Games Not Televised on NHL Center Ice
- Games which are nationally televised in the U.S. on NBC, NBC Sports Network or NHL Network, (but you do get NHL network for free when you buy center ice unless you subscribe through Time Warner Cable (TWC). TWC doesn't feature the NHL Network in their Center Ice package).
- Sabres Hockey Network broadcasts do not air on Dish Network
- High-definition feeds of games originating on MSG, MSG+, MSG2 and MSG+2 on Dish Network
- OTA Broadcasts (Only shown when it is the only broadcast available for that game).
- WGN-TV games do show up on Center Ice Canada and are not blacked out on WGN-TV in Canada. Some WGN-TV games air on Center Ice USA if they are the only feed available and also some WGN-TV games do show up on NHL Network USA.
- RDS and RDS2 (French Speaking Canadiens Broadcast). It is only shown when there isn't an English broadcast available.
NHL Center Ice is available with these cable and satellite providers:
- Dish Network
- iN DEMAND
- Summit Broadband
- Charter Communications
- Comcast (part owner)
- Cox Communications (part owner)
- Time Warner (part owner)
- Bright House Networks
- Midcontinent Communications
- Adams Cable
- Blue Ridge Communications
- Verizon FiOS
NHL Center Ice blackouts, as with other sports packages, are intended to protect the rights of the league's national, regional and local broadcast partners.
In the United States, games that are broadcast by NBC or NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) are not included in the NHL Center Ice package.
Additionally, NBC has been granted an exclusive window by the league, during which no other games can be televised in the United States.
During this window, other games may be televised locally only by Canadian teams.
For instance, if the Edmonton Oilers are playing the Nashville Predators at the same time NBC is televising another game, the Oilers may choose to broadcast the game locally (on Sportsnet West, for example), but the Predators are not permitted to televise the game.
Additionally, the game would be available on NHL Center Ice in Canada, but not in the United States.
The NBC blackout window typically lasts 2.5 hours from the start of its Game of the Week broadcast.
Games that are televised by NBC Sports Network are designated as exclusive or non-exclusive for blackout purposes.
Exclusive broadcasts generally occur on Monday and Tuesday nights during the regular season.
During these games, NBC Sports Network has an exclusive window similar to NBC, which usually lasts 2 or 2.5 hours from the start of the NBC Sports Network telecast. No other games may be televised in the United States during this time.
Canadian teams may choose to air these games, and unlike the NBC exclusive window, the Canadian local telecasts are included in the U.S. NHL Center Ice package.
During non-exclusive NBC Sports Network telecasts, other teams may televise their games, but the NBC Sports Network game may not be locally televised.
Local/regional broadcast restrictions depend on the Center Ice subscriber's physical location.
Every location in the United States and Canada falls in the territory of at least one NHL team and some areas fall in multiple team territories.
Additionally, each team may choose to televise its games on a regional sports network (RSN), local broadcast/over-the-air (OTA) station, or can choose not to televise them.
In cases where the local team broadcasts on an RSN (i.e. FSN, Comcast, NESN, etc.), Center Ice subscribers in the team's territory will be blacked out of the opposing team's broadcast and must watch the game on the local RSN.
For example, the Boston Bruins are playing the St. Louis Blues. The Bruins are televising on NESN, and the Blues are televising on FSN Midwest.
Viewers in Bruins territory will be blacked out of the FSN Midwest feed and must watch the game on NESN.
In cases where the local team broadcasts on an OTA station (i.e. KPLR St. Louis, KDFI Dallas, etc.), Center Ice subscribers who live within a 50 mile radius of the team's arena (regardless of whether the team is home or away) will be blacked out from the Center Ice feed of the game.
Viewers who live in the team's territory but outside the 50 mile radius will not be blacked out from the Center Ice broadcast.
For example, The Dallas Stars are playing the Chicago Blackhawks. The Stars are televising on KDFI (an OTA station) while the Blackhawks are televising on CSN Chicago.
A viewer who lives in Stars territory (but more than 50 miles from the Stars' arena) will not be blacked out of the CSN Chicago feed.
A viewer in Stars territory who lives within the 50 mile radius will be blacked out of the Blackhawks feed and must watch the game on KDFI.
If a team chooses not to televise a game locally, that team may choose to lift the Center Ice blackout.
Many teams announce at the start of the regular season that all games not televised locally will not be blacked out on NHL Center Ice, while others make decisions on a case-by-case basis near the date of the game.
For example, The Florida Panthers are hosting the Ottawa Senators. The Senators are televising on Sportsnet East, but the Panthers are not televising the game locally.
Viewers in Panthers territory will not be blacked out of the Senators feed, provided that the Panthers have approved a blackout lift for the game.
On some Canadian systems WGN blackhawks games are not blacked out on WGN in Canada even when they are playing a Canadian team even when it's the local team.
In rare events, should there not be a televised broadcast of either market, an in-house arena feed will be broadcast with the home team's radio broadcast as the audio. This is subject on a case-by-case basis.