Hockey fans looking to watch the NHL and NCAA hockey, you’re in the right place. In this ultimate guide to watching hockey without cable, we’ll discuss how to watch both pro and college hockey, without overpaying for a pricey cable subscription. Read on, and get all of the details.
In a hurry? Check out these three streaming services that are great for watching hockey games without cable:
- DirecTV Stream – It’s not cheap, but DirecTV Stream has all of the RSNs (Regional Sports Networks) that you need to watch your local hockey team, and it also has every channel you need to watch nationally-broadcast hockey games.
- Sling TV – The Sling Orange package from Sling TV has everything you need for national NHL games, and you can add NHL Network for an additional fee, too. However, it doesn’t have regional sports networks (RSNs), which means you’ll miss out on your local team.
- ESPN+ – Thanks to its new Power Play partnership with the NHL, ESPN+ is a great option for hockey fans, with more than 1050 out-of-market games airing on the service for a low price, along with some exclusive games that will air only on Hulu and ESPN+.
Outside the US? You may be able to use a VPN to watch hockey without cable using one of the above services. Here are our top VPN picks. Take a look at this article for more details.
Our pick for watching hockey without cable: DirecTV Stream
DirecTV Stream has all of the channels you need to watch NHL hockey without cable, including both nationally-broadcast games, and games played by your local hockey team. It also has channels that carry NCAA hockey games in most top athletic conferences. Along with its solid features, that makes it our top pick for watching hockey without cable, despite a somewhat high price of entry.
Why choose DirecTV Stream for watching hockey without cable?
Because if you want to watch every NHL game from your local team as well as nationally broadcast games, DirecTV Stream has every channel you need. It’s the only internet TV service with a full lineup of RSNs (Regional Sports Networks), like Bally Sports, NBC Sports, AT&T SportsNet, and more.
These are the channels that broadcast local NHL games in your service area. For example, if you live in Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Blue Jackets games will air on Bally Sports Ohio. Some competitors like fuboTV and Hulu With Live TV have a few RSNs, but only DirecTV Stream has a full lineup of RSNs for pretty much every area in the United States.
These channels also air NCAA hockey games in lots of areas of the U.S., which means you’ll get to watch more college hockey, too. Along with a great channel lineup for NHL hockey, DirecTV Stream has great overall features and strong device support, too, so it’s our top pick for watching hockey without cable.
Top DirecTV Stream features
Still wondering what makes DirecTV Stream a great choice for watching NHL and NCAA hockey? Here’s a quick look at the best features of this cable alternative:
- Full RSN lineup – DirecTV Stream has a full lineup of RSNs from Bally Sports, AT&T SportsNet, NBC Sports, New England Sports Network (NESN) Spectrum Sports, and more.
- Channels for national NHL games – Along with local games, you can watch nationally-televised NHL games on DirecTV Stream since it has ABC, ESPN, and TNT.
- Good device support – You can watch DirecTV Stream on iOS, Android, web browsers, Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Chromecast devices, as well as most smart TVs and other modern streaming devices.
- Solid DVR – The DirecTV Stream DVR lets you record unlimited content for up to nine months, so you can record hockey games and watch them later.
- Lots of simultaneous streams – With 20 simultaneous streams on your home WiFi network and up to three outside of your WiFi network, everyone can watch what they want, even in large households.
Want more info? Read our in-depth review of DirecTV Stream for more details, and to see if it’s right for you. Or, click here to sign up and try it out for yourself.
When is live hockey season?
Due to its roots as an outdoor sport played on natural ice, hockey is still played in the winter, even though indoor arenas are now where games are played. Here’s a quick overview of the NHL and NCAA seasons:
NHL season begins in the fall
Generally, the NHL season starts in early October, with the preseason being played in late September. The regular season ends in April, with the playoffs usually running until late May or early June.
NCAA hockey season begins in the fall
Collegiate hockey also begins in October, with the regular season running until early March. Then, NCAA college hockey playoffs for both men and women begin, running for about a month until early April.
How to watch the hockey postseason without cable
Watching the hockey postseason without cable is a bit different than watching regular season games, because all postseason games are broadcast nationally. Here’s what you need to know:
Watch the NHL hockey postseason without cable
During the NHL hockey postseason, playoff games will air on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, and TBS. The Stanley Cup Finals will be broadcast both on ABC and ESPN+.
Watch the NCAA hockey postseason without cable
The NCAA hockey postseason will be aired on both ESPNU and ESPN2 for men and women, with a few games being aired on ESPN+, as well.
How to watch hockey during the offseason
If you’re looking to watch hockey during the offseason, ESPN+ is what you need. Thanks to a new deal with the NHL, ESPN+ has full replays of every game, so you can watch games on demand and scratch your itch for offseason hockey content.
Other options for watching hockey without cable
While DirecTV Stream is our top choice for watching hockey without cable, it’s by no means your only choice. Sling TV and ESPN+ are also great options if you want to watch the NHL and NCAA hockey without cable.
Watch hockey without cable on Sling TV
Sling TV is a good option for watching hockey without cable if you want to watch national games, and do not need to watch your local team. This is because it doesn’t have regional sports networks, but the Sling Blue package does have ESPN, TNT, and TBS. If you use a digital antenna to get ABC for free, this means you have everything you need to watch national games and the hockey postseason.
Read our in-depth review of Sling TV for more details. Or, if you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can click here to sign up and try it out. Sling often offers discounts and special deals on your first several months of service.
Watch hockey without cable on ESPN+
Thanks to the launch of their new NHL Power Play brand, ESPN+ is now one of the best ways to watch hockey without cable, especially if you don’t follow the local team in your market. This year alone, it will air more than 1050 games from out-of-market teams, as well as 53 games that are also exclusive to ESPN+ and Hulu.
If you’re looking to follow an out-of-market team or you’re just a big hockey fan, ESPN+ is a great choice. You could even combine it with Sling TV. With ESPN+, you can watch every out-of-market game, and with Sling TV, you can watch nationally-broadcast games that are blacked out on ESPN+.
Read our in-depth review of ESPN+ to learn more and see if it’s right for you. Or, if you’d like to try it for yourself, you can click here to sign up and see if you like ESPN+.
What channels air live hockey games?
Depending on whether you’re watching the NHL or NCAA hockey, channels for live hockey games can vary. Here’s what you need to know:
Channels for live NHL hockey games
To watch your local team, you’ll need your local Regional Sports Network (RSN). For example, fans of the Vegas Golden Knights will need AT&T SportsNet, but the necessary RSN will vary depending on your location. This is why DirecTV Stream is our top choice – it has RSNs in every major area of the country.
As for nationally-broadcasted games, these air on ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, and TNT, as well as ABC in the postseason. Some national games are also exclusive to ESPN+ and Hulu.
We have full guides on how to watch NHL hockey games on Flixed for every team, such as the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Seattle Kraken, Toronto Maple Leafs, and many more. Check them out for more info.
Channels for live NCAA hockey games
During the regular season, most live NCAA hockey games will be broadcast on CBS Sports, as well as regional channels and cable channels like BTN, NESN, AT&T SportsNet, and Altitude. During the NCAA hockey postseason, ESPNU will be covering almost every game, with ESPN+ covering the NCAA women’s hockey Frozen Four Semifinals.
Best devices for watching hockey without cable
All of the above services we mentioned are great for watching hockey without cable, and support devices you probably already have, like iOS and Android phones, and web browsers, too. But if you’re looking for a new living room device for NHL and NCAA games, we’d recommend one of the following products:
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – If you’re an Amazon Prime Video user, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a great option. It’s got good video quality, tons of apps, and close integration with Amazon Alex and Amazon’s other products.
- Roku Streaming Stick 4K – The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is easy to use, supports up to 4K resolution, and has full access to the Roku Channel Store, which includes quite a bit of free TV and other content, so it’s a good option for most cord-cutters.
- 2022 Apple TV 4K – If you’re a big Apple fan or just want the best of the best when it comes to streaming devices, the 2022 Apple TV 4K is a good option. It has features like wired ethernet that are not available in most competing products, as well as Siri integration and close integration with macOS and iOS devices.
- Chromecast with Google TV (4K) – This little dongle turns your TV into a fully-featured Google TV, and also allows for screen casting from phones, tablets, and computers. Naturally, it also comes with Google Assistant, and boasts plenty of horsepower and storage for 4K streaming.
If you’d like to learn more, you can take a look at our comparison of the best streaming devices. Also, you may want to consider buying a digital TV antenna, like this model from Gesobyte. With a digital antenna, you can watch NHL games on ABC without cable, and pick up tons of other local broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, and FOX. Check out this guide to OTA TV and digital antennas for more info.
How to bet on hockey games
Both NCAA and NHL hockey are great sports to bet on, with tons of bets for game outcomes and prop bets for events that happen during the games.
If you’re looking to bet on hockey games, a few of the top sportsbooks include DraftKings, Caesars SportsBook, FanDuel, BetMGM, and PointsBet. Wondering if sports betting on hockey is legal in your state yet? Take a look at our guide to where sports betting is legal.
How to watch hockey outside of the United States
If you’re in Canada, you can watch most hockey games on SportsNet Now, with select games being aired during the CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada broadcast, too. Hockey fans in other countries can subscribe to NHL TV. With NHL.TV, you can watch every NHL game in the United States for a low season-long fee, with no blackouts or other issues.
You may also be able to watch hockey without cable outside of the United States by using a VPN and subscribing to one of our recommended services, like DirecTV Stream, Sling TV, or ESPN+. Check out our list of the top VPNs to learn more and get started.
Our takeaway: DirecTV Stream is the best for hockey fans
Overall, we think that DirecTV Stream is the best choice for hockey fans who want to watch local broadcasts. However, if you don’t care about your local NHL and NCAA teams, Sling TV and ESPN+ are good alternatives – especially if you combine them to get national games via Sling TV and out-of-network games via ESPN+.
Eric Liston • Author
Eric Liston is a content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Since 2015, he’s been writing about technology, cord-cutting, and helping everyday people save money. He also has expertise writing about medicine, dentistry, insurance, and a variety of other industries. No matter what he’s writing, his focus is always on simplifying complex concepts and making them approachable for everyone. When he’s not slamming away on his keyboard at his home office, you’ll find Eric reading sci-fi novels, improving his disc golf game (he just hit his first 400-foot drive) and playing video games on his gaming PC.
Desiree Wu • Editor
Desiree is a full-time Honours Business Administration student at Ivey Business School at Western University. She also works as the Editorial Intern at Flixed. Desiree is based in London, Ontario.