The National Hockey League is the American professional ice hockey competition. It can be a much-derided sport, but this underestimates its popularity both in North America and across the globe. As a winter sport, it’s no surprise that the USA’s cousin to the north would have such a keen interest in the sport. Indeed, in Canada, the NHL is the main sport and all of its biggest cities have representation in the league.
But the league has a following which goes much further than North America. The NHL is the biggest ice hockey league in the world and as such draws attention from numerous countries. It has a big following in places such as Scandinavia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia.
There is undoubtedly a demand for high-quality coverage of the NHL outside the US and Canada, both by ex-pats and locals. However, what is sadly lacking is extensive and high-quality local coverage. Whilst most of these countries do have some coverage, it is often limited to a handful of games and frequently usurped in the schedules by more popular sports. This can be hugely irksome for NHL and ice hockey fans.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a VPN, it is possible to access the very best coverage of the NHL from either the US and Canadian broadcast rights holders, or through the NHL’s own subscription services. Another option for viewing NHL games around the world is through Kodi and further down we will discuss how using Kodi with a VPN is a reliable and cost-effect option for many users.
As an NHL fan who has lived overseas for a long time, I have been streaming the NHL through a VPN for years. As a tech writer, I have given most of the big VPNs a road-test in that time too. So, I have brought together a combination of my knowledge of VPN services and personal experience to compile my pick of the best VPNs to unblock the National Hockey League.
How we picked
As with almost all major sporting leagues, the NHL sells the rights to broadcasts its games by country or region. This means that all broadcasters have to take reasonable steps to geo-restrict access to their content online.
With a VPN, this geo-restriction can be evaded, but some VPNs are more effective at doing this than others. I have therefore used a number of core criteria to identify the best VPNs to Unblock the National Hockey League coverage based on my own personal experience of what matters most.
So, for the purposes of this article, I have applied the following criteria to choose what I believe are the best VPNs:
- A well-established VPN with a proven record of unblocking geo-restricted sites.
- Availability of service around the world and on multiple platforms
- Multiple servers located in the USA and Canada
- Fast and reliable connection speeds facilitating good video streaming
- Effective securing and privacy policies to protect users
In applying these criteria, I believe these four are your best bet to watch the NHL online from anywhere.
Best VPNs to Unblock the NHL
ExpressVPN is one of the premium VPN providers and has long been a big hit with users. This is not a coincidence as ExpressVPN is probably the best all-around VPN on the market right now. Certainly, when it comes to streaming geo-restricted content, such as NHL streams, it is one of the best options on the market.
Their connections are always both fast and consistent and this seems to be pretty much universal regardless of which server you choose to connect to. There are plenty for you to pick from as well, including at multiple locations in the USA, including New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle. There are also servers at three locations in Canada, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto.
The VPN service itself can be used in just about every country around the world too. I have managed to stream NHL games in such diverse countries as Australia, Taiwan, Russia, South Africa, and Egypt using ExpressVPN without any real variation in the quality or speed.
ExpressVPN offers their VPN service across a wide range of platforms and operating systems, and also has dedicated apps for iOS and Android devices for users who might want to stream on the go.
Security-wise, their service is second to none, with 256-bit encryption throughout and they are also guaranteed to protect your privacy as they are based in the British Virgin Islands meaning they are under no obligation to keep any user data.
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- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Amazon Prime
- 94 countries, 2,000+ servers
- Secure encryption & VPN protocols
- Strict no-logging policy
- Great support (24/7 chat).Cons
- Power-users configuration options
- Expensive month-to-month plan.
Essentially, there are no obvious drawbacks to using ExpressVPN to unblock the NHL that I have come across and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
While ExpressVPN is good, there are plenty of other well-known and well-regarded VPNs out there who give them a good run for their money. One of those is IPVanish.
IPVanish is proud of its connection speeds too, and rightly so. They are also fast and efficient and there is rarely a variation in quality no matter where in the world you or your chosen server are located.
Their selection of servers actually surpasses ExpressVPN, with more than 40,000 IP Addresses across 750+ servers in more than 60 countries. This includes many located in both the USA and Canada.
IPVanish is actually a US-based company which is a slight drawback when it comes to security and privacy considerations. The US Government is much more intrusive than the host countries of some rival VPNs and whilst there are no specific data retention laws in place for VPNs at the moment, the current trends suggest it is only a matter of time. But if that isn’t too much of a concern to you, then you won’t go far wrong by opting for IPVanish as well.
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VyprVPN ticks many of the boxes that users looking to unblock coverage of the national hockey league are looking for, but perhaps not all of them.
Speedwise, VyprVPN is right up there with the very best. In my personal experience, some servers can be better than others, but I have never found it a huge inconvenience to switch servers if a feed is going a smoothly as I might like.
They also now offer a good range of servers, which was not always the case in the past. In the US, there are servers available in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. There are however currently none located in Canada, which is a drawback if you are keen to watch Canadian NHL coverage.
VyprVPNs security and encryption provisions are good too, but again their privacy settings are not at the same level as ExpressVPNs, which for me is a shame. They do offer a guaranteed no logs policy for site content, but they do record connection logs, which include such data as a user’s home IP Address, the VyprVPN IP Address you connected to, the connection start and stop time, and the amount of data transferred.
I would always prefer such data not to be held at all if possible, because you never know who might get hold of it. VyprVPN also does not permit torrent traffic, which means if you want to watch NHL games through Kodi (or indeed use your VPN to download BitTorrent files securely) it is not the right choice for you. But if that is neither of these issues is a concern for you, then VyprVPN certainly has plenty to offer.
As with the other VPN providers on this list, NordVPN is a long-established and well-regarded VPN provider which also gives ExpressVPN a real run for its money.
Connection speeds have often been cited as an issue with NordVPN, but I must admit I have rarely encountered problems with them. On the odd occasion it has seemed slow, a server quick has always swiftly eliminated the problem.
Security-wise, NordVPN is almost at the same level as ExpressVPN, offering 256-bit encryption on OpenVPN with 2,048-bit Diffie-Hellman keys. This is more than sufficient for modern needs and for most users who want to stream the NHL. As far as privacy policies go, NordVPN is located in Panama which means they keep absolutely no user records whatsoever.
Their range of servers is enormous, with 336 of their total of 799 servers being based in the USA and almost a hundred more in Canada. This means there is plenty of choice for users wanting to watch either US or Canadian NHL coverage.
They also guarantee access to streaming services even if they are trying to block VPNs. This can be offered using a tool called smart play which is built into their service these days and makes it almost impossible for sites to identify and block their IP Addresses. It’s a tool that seems to work and makes NordVPN a strong contender for the best VPN to unblock National Hockey League coverage. If you are operating on a budget, NordVPN is definitely worth consideration as it is the cheapest VPN to make our recommended list.
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What is the NHL?
If you haven’t come across the National Hockey League or the NHL before, you have really missed out on an amazing spectacle. As I noted at the top, the NHL is the USA’s premier professional ice hockey league. It is also the biggest and most prestigious ice hockey league in the world and the one which all players aspire to compete in.
It was established in 1917 as a replacement for the National Hockey Association and so is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The league comprises of teams from the USA and Canada who are all competing for the Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America.
The structure of the NHL is similar to other US sports league. Given the geographic size of the USA, teams are divided up into two conferences – the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference.
Within each conference, teams are then split again into two leagues. The Western Conference is made up of the Pacific Division and the Central Division, while the Eastern Conference is made up of the Atlantic Division and the Metropolitan Division. Each division consists of either seven or eight teams.
The season itself is made up the regular season and the post-season, or playoffs. In the regular season, each team will play the other teams in their division either 4 or 5 times, the teams in the other division in their conference 3 times, and the teams in the other conference twice.
This is a total of 82 games, with 41 played at home and 41 on the road.
At the end of the regular season, the top 4 teams in each division qualify for the playoffs. This is an elimination event in which teams play three rounds of ‘best of seven game’ series against teams to determine which team should represent their conference in the league’s showpiece event, the Stanley Cup Final.
The Stanley Cup Final is also a ‘best of seven game’ series with the first team to win four matches lifting the trophy.
This structure means that if your team goes all the way to the final, it is possible they could end up playing 110 games in a season. That’s a lot of sport to keep up to speed with, which is why being able to watch coverage overseas is so important.
Who broadcasts the NHL?
As I noted above, the most comprehensive coverage of the NHL can, as you might expect, be found in the USA and Canada.
Fortunately, pretty much every VPN provider will offer servers in these two countries, including the four we have recommended in this article. This means that there should be no problems for users anywhere to access streams online. But there are a couple of options too.
In Canada, the NHL broadcast rights are owned by Rogers Media, who operate various television stations across Canada. Deciding the best channel to sign up for can depend if you are a fan of the Vancouver Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leaves, the Montreal Canadiens, or another Canadian franchise.
There is also a regular highlights programme, called Hockey Night in Canada, which broadcasts on CBC as well as the City, FX Canada, and the Sportsnet channels. Sportsnet also airs twice weekly live games, while playoff coverage is split between CBC and Sportsnet.
And of course, Canada is a bilingual country and French-language NHL coverage rights are currently held by TVA Sports.
In the USA, NHL broadcast rights in both English and Spanish are held by NBC. They broadcast most of their regular season coverage, including live games, on NBCSN. NBC also hold rights to most of the playoffs, with coverage being split between NBC, NBCSN, and CNBC (for the first two rounds).
NBC and the NHL also jointly own the NHL Network. This is a cable and satellite channel which is dedicated to the NHL and features live coverage of NHL and lower league games as well as various discussion and news shows all about the league.
Meanwhile, Spanish-language coverage of the NHL in the USA can be found on Telemundo Deportes, which is also part of NBC.
All of these channels offer online streaming options, but there will be different subscription requirements to access each of them. But with a VPN in place, once you are signed up, accessing the content from anywhere will be a piece of cake.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an online security and privacy tool. But they bring with them so many more advantages than that, including the ability to watch geo-restricted content overseas.
A VPN works by redirecting all of a user’s online traffic via an encrypted tunnel and an external server before it reaches the website or service it is intended for. This process brings with it two main benefits.
Firstly, by forcing all of your online traffic down a secure tunnel, you are guaranteeing that everything you do online in encrypted. If you have not come across the term encryption before, it refers to encoding all of your data in such a way as to make it unintelligible to hackers, government surveillance operators, and anyone else who might be inclined to intercept it.
This makes everything you do online much more secure than might otherwise be the case and is why a VPN is recommended by many experts as an essential part of every internet users online security toolkit.
But sending this data via an external server is an equally important part of the process. When your data passes through an external server, it is tagged with the IP Address of that server, rather than the IP Address of your own connection.
An IP Address is the piece of data which you send with all of your data which tells the websites and services you are using about you. Crucially this includes information about where exactly in the world you are.
By changing your IP Address in this way, you are essentially making your online activity completely anonymous, because it becomes all but impossible to trace your online traffic back to your own IP Address. All the websites and services you use will know if the VPN server your data passed through and identifying individual users from there is pretty much impossible.
But it also means you Internet Service Provider (ISP) cannot see where your data is going either. This is important in America, where the Trump administration has recently permitted ISPs to sell user data without their permission. For users who have a VPN connection, this data is worthless because as far as your ISP is concerned, you are only visiting the server of your VPN. They can see nothing beyond that.
So that’s how a VPN works and why it’s such an effective online security and privacy tool. But how does it help you to unblock geo-restricted content and so watch the NHL online?
How does a VPN unblock geo-restricted content?
Streaming is the means by which a growing number of people are accessing their media these days. Services such as Netflix has revolutionized the way we watch television shows and movies and a glance at the charts show that almost every young person is accessing their music online these days.
The same is true for sport, with an increasing number of people choosing to watch live sports and highlights shows online at the time and place that suits them best.
TV money is what keeps professional sport afloat these days though; a rule which is as true for the NHL as it is every other major sports league in the USA and beyond. The leagues are therefore understandably precious about the rights to their product.
Different companies buy up the rights to broadcast and stream different sports in different countries and regions. This means that they are only permitted to show that sport within the geographic area they hold the rights to. If they do so any further afield, they risk being in breach of their contract with the league.
The way they try to ensure they don’t do this online is called geo-restriction and it works thanks to individual users IP Addresses, which we referred to above.
Your IP Address tells the websites you visit where in the world you are located. It is therefore easy for a broadcaster to look at your IP Address, see where in the world you are, and then decide whether or not they are allowed to stream their content to you.
But with a VPN it is possible to fool the system. This is because, as we explained above, when your online data passes through a VPNs server it acquires the IP Address of that server.
Most VPNs will allow users to choose from a selection of hundreds of servers located in scores of countries around the world. This means that it is possible to convince a site that you are located in a different country simply by connecting to a VPN server which is in that country.
So, to watch the best NHL coverage around, which is found in the USA or Canada, all you have to do is connect your VPN to a server located in one of those countries and then head over to the broadcaster. You should then have no trouble accessing their online stream and be able to enjoy as many games as you want to, regardless of where you are actually located.
Watching the NHL via Kodi with a VPN
If you haven’t heard of Kodi before, it is a relatively recent innovation which has facilitated the access of online streaming content onto a variety of platforms in a new and unique way.
Kodi is a media player which used to be known as the Xbox Media Center or XBMC. It was created by is a not-for-profit tech consortium, the XBMC Foundation, in 2002, initially for the Xbox Games Console. But as Microsoft never formally approved its use on that device, it has instead morphed into an open-source, multi-platform media player which has grown hugely in popularity in recent years.
This is for two reasons. Firstly, it can be used as a single hub to access all of your media, across multiple devices, on a single manager. The second is because of the add-ons that can be used with it.
As a piece of open-source software, Kodi’s coding is available for any developers to play around with. Many have taken up the challenge and developed countless add-ons which can be used with the main Kodi software.
Many of these adds-on’s allow for the streaming of broadcast media such as the various NHL broadcasters we talked about above. These streams often function without the geo-restriction limitations of the official streams. But that doesn’t mean the use of a VPN is any less essential.
This is because many Kodi add-ons are considered to be ‘of questionable legality’ and if a stream is traced back to you, it is possible that you may face either legal or financial repercussions.
But with a VPN, your identity will be hidden (see above for details) and therefore it will be all but impossible for the broadcaster to trace your use of the feed back to you.
So, Kodi is another option if you want to watch the NHL from overseas and need to bypass broadcasters geo-restrictions. But whether you choose to go with Kodi or a more conventional stream, a VPN is a vital tool to use, and the fur detailed here are the best on the market for your needs right now.