NHL blackouts are commonplace on ESPN+ and NHL.tv, but you can bypass these geographical content restrictions by using a VPN. Today, we show you how to choose the right provider, then use your VPN software to change your IP address and unblock your favorite hockey streams, anywhere in the world.
ESPN is one of the most popular sports television channels in the world, and recently started to provide coverage online, too. ESPN+ provides on-demand content and exclusive videos that are not available through the regular subscription. NHL.tv is a subscription-based service created by the NHL that allows users to watch out-of-market games online. Unfortunately, both streaming options are affected by blackout restrictions.
Specifically, with the NHL, blackouts happen when the games’ telecast is sold to regional broadcasters, preventing viewers from outside the team’s region to watch the game. In order to bypass these location-based restrictions on ESPN+ and NHL.tv, you will need a top quality VPN. In this article, we will cover how to prioritize VPN features, give you our provider recommendations, and explain how blackouts work with the NHL.
Use a VPN to unblock hockey streams abroad
Bypassing regional blocks is essential if you want to enjoy your favorite NHL games without blackouts. To do so, you will need a VPN provider with advanced features, a large server network, and solid security. Prior to moving on to specific providers, it is important to prioritize the features below based on your internet needs.
- Servers around the U.S. and Canada – choose a provider that has many servers in the United States and Canada. This will give you more options when it comes to connecting to different locations (to access games of all teams) and the fastest servers. This is also useful if you wish to stream content on Netflix and Hulu.
- Quick connection speed – in order to enjoy NHL games without streaming delays or buffering, opt for a VPN provider that has unlimited bandwidth and no speed caps. Make sure the VPN provides fast connections, as well.
- Strong security features – in order to protect your data and personal information from being exposed, choose a provider that uses 256-bit AES encryption and has a zero-logging policy on almost everything. This will make sure your logs are protected and never traced back to you.
- Device compatibility – in order to enjoy practically limitless access to all NHL games on ESPN+ and NHL.tv, make sure you choose a VPN provider whose service works with many devices and operating systems.
ExpressVPN is one of the leading VPN providers on the market today, particularly when it comes to speed and security. With 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, ExpressVPN provides its’ users with plenty of connection options, both in terms of speed and location. Whether you are on vacation abroad or in the US, ExpressVPN allows you to bypass blackouts on ESPN+ and NHL.tv with only a few clicks. Furthermore, you can connect up to three devices to the service, which means you can enjoy it on any one of your devices.
ExpressVPN has some of the strongest security features, too. The service uses 256-bit AES encryption, which protects your data the entire time you are browsing and streaming. Additional features include the DNS leak test, which determines whether your DNS requests are being leaked or not. Further, the automatic kill switch shuts down your entire internet in case you ever get disconnected. The no-logging policy on everything, from traffic to IP addresses, ensures that your online activities are not stored and the information cannot be traced back to your email address.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other streaming services
- 3,000+ super fast servers
- No DNS/IP leaks found
- Strict no-logs policy for personal information
- 24/7 Live Chat.
- Slightly pricier than competition.
NordVPN is notable in the industry for its massive network size. The provider has a network of over 5,500 servers in 58 countries, which makes it particularly great for bypassing censorship blocks for even the strictest streaming services, such as ESPN+. NordVPN offers a variety of speciality servers, including Onion over VPN, anti-DDos, P2P and double VPN. Since ESPN+ and NHL.tv often block IP addresses associated with VPN providers, these servers help you bypass blackout restrictions with their advanced settings.
NordVPN has an impressive list of security features, too. The provider uses a 256-bit AES encryption, which is practically unbreakable. Specifically, it would take the world’s strongest supercomputer millions of years in order to crack the code. Other encryption protocols include UDP and TCP (through OpenVPN), and SSTP, which beats hardcore censorship blocks. The no-logging policy employed by NordVPN is one of the most complete in the industry. It specifies that no logs on traffic, IP addresses, or even browsing history, are stored.
Once you gain access to all NHL games without blackout restrictions, NordVPN ensures you have a seamless streaming experience by providing you with unlimited bandwidth and no speed caps.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- SPECIAL OFFER: 3-year plan (75% off - link below)
- No bandwidth caps
- No IP/DNS leaks found
- No logs and encrypted connections for total privacy
- Live chat support is available.
- Can't specify City or Province in App.
CyberGhost’s service focuses on a user-friendly interface, security, and reliability. The app is very easy to use, which makes it a great choice for NHL fans who have never had any previous experience using a VPN service. Once you download and launch the app, you will be presented with six straightforward profiles to choose from, including “unblock streaming”, “unblock basic websites”, and “choose my VPN server”. In order to enjoy regional NHL games, you can manually select the server depending on where the game is broadcasted. You can then further customize each profile by adding features such as “extra speed” or “block online tracking”.
In terms of connection speed, CyberGhost is one of the leading providers in the industry. With 6,200+ servers in 90 countries, CyberGhost allows its users to be selective about the servers they choose in order to ensure the fastest connection. Furthermore, the service provides unlimited bandwidth, high connection speeds, and no speed caps or throttling. CyberGhost allows you to connect up to five devices, so you can enjoy your team’s games whether you are on your smartphone on a bus or at home watching the game through your game console. CyberGhost is available on Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and even Router and Raspberry Pi.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
- Works with American Netflix
- Affordable plans
- Not in the 14 Eyes
- Private: Strong no logs policy
- Live chat support (24/7).
- Some streaming sites cannot be unblocked.
PrivateVPN provides its users with the ultimate twofold – speed and security. The service comes with a 256-bit AES encryption as a default, but if you would like some extra speed for streaming games, you have the option to step down to 128-bits. While this means that the encryption will not be as strong, it is still excellent and will give you a good balance between fast connectivity and security. A service with these features will allow you to not only bypass NHL blackout restrictions but also enjoy seamless streaming throughout the entire game.
PrivateVPN has impressive security features in addition to its military-grade encryption. These include an automatic kill switch, which disconnects your entire internet in case you lose the connection. Furthermore, PrivateVPN’s no-logging policy ensures that none of your information will ever get in the hands of the government, ISPs, or potentially even cybercriminals.
PrivateVPN has a network of 150+ servers in 60+ countries. While the number of servers falls behind the rest of the competition, the distribution of said servers allows you to connect to a wide range of locations. Furthermore, the provider supports many different devices and operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and more. This means that you do not need to worry about being able to use the app on any one of your devices.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
What are NHL blackouts?
In sports broadcasting, blackout restrictions have been an ongoing problem. The purpose of blackouts is to protect regional sports networks, which are aimed at specific markets, from competition posed by the “out-of-market” networks. Out-of-market sports packages bring sports broadcasts to areas where the games are not being televised. In a nutshell, whether you experience a blackout or not depends on your geographical location. If the game is broadcasted outside of your region, chances are you will experience a blackout on ESPN+ or NHL.tv.
RELATED READING: Is it possible to watch ESPN in Europe?
Although these restrictions are meant to protect every team’s local market, there have been many complaints from fans over the years, including a lawsuit in 2012. For example, let’s say you live in New York and have just purchased a subscription to NHL.tv to watch your favorite team play – the Boston Bruins. You sign into your brand new app, select the game, and suddenly experience an error. Why? Because you are trying to watch the game in New York. The NHL has employed these blackout restrictions to give regional sports networks exclusive broadcasting rights for most of the games.
Why does the NHL use blackouts?
The question remains – who is to blame for these limitations that get in the way of fans enjoying their favorite games?
Firstly, the NHL itself has several reasons for blackout restrictions. The league agreed to contracts that granted networks national broadcasting rights. In 2013, Business Insider announced that the NHL earned $600 million from negotiating television deals. In this context, the league has a lot to gain from the contracts. While out-of-market games can be viewed with services like NHL.tv, they do not offer nationally televised games and still use blackouts to protect broadcasted.
How does a VPN resolve blackout restrictions?
If you are an NHL fan and are subscribed to either ESPN+ or NHL.tv, there is good news. A VPN can help you not only overcome these regional limitations but stay secure online and hide your IP address throughout the entire experience.
Overcoming regional blocks
Since blackouts are ultimately based on your location, a VPN solves practically all your problems. A VPN service will allow you to switch your IP address with just a few clicks. This means that you can bypass blackout restrictions by connecting to a server in the location where the game is actually being broadcasted. So, whether you are traveling to Asia or are simply not in the right state in America, you can watch all NHL games without experiencing blackouts.
Furthermore, a VPN allows you to bypass censorship blocks on other major websites, too. For example, the US Netflix library offers a much wider range of content than any other country in the world. In order to access this content when you are traveling or relocating, all you need to do is turn on your VPN, connect to a server in the US, and enjoy the array of films and TV shows.
Hiding your IP address
When accessing ESPN+ or NHL.tv with your actual IP address, you will experience blackouts when trying to watch a game that is outside of your region. However, a VPN will hide your true IP address depending on which server you choose. This means that you will be able to protect your privacy by hiding your real location and, in turn, avoiding government or ISP snooping.
Further, with a good VPN provider that uses strong encryption, your online activity logs will always be protected. From your IP addresses to browsing history, a good VPN’s security features will ensure no information is traced back to your email address.
Get started to eliminate blackouts
In order to get started with bypassing blackouts on ESPN+ and NHL.tv, follow the simple steps below.
Download, install, and configure your VPN
- Sign in to your VPN account within your browser. Select the right app for your operating system, and download it.
- Once downloaded and launched, use the same credentials to log in to the app.
- As soon as you sign in, you will be automatically connected to the fastest available server. If you want to connect to a server in a specific location to watch a game, you can do so manually.
- You are now connected and ready to watch your favorite games, regardless of your location and without blackouts.
Verify your IP address (optional)
Although you are connected, it is important to verify that the connection is working properly.
- Go on ipleak.net and wait a few moments for the page to load.
- The page will run an automatic IP address lookup. Under “Your IP Addresses”, check that the server indicated is the one you have selected.
- If it is, you are ready to enjoy the game. If not, there may be a leak and you need to contact the VPN provider directly to fix the problem.
FULL GUIDE: How to run a DNS leak check
While NHL blackout restrictions can be incredibly annoying, there is a way to access all your favorite games on ESPN+ and NHL.tv, regardless of your location. By opting for any one of our recommended VPN providers, you can bypass these restrictions, keep your data secure, and establish fast connections. While in the long-run the NHL may provide its fans with a solution, a VPN is the fastest, easiest, and most effective fix for right now.
Have you bypassed blackouts with any one of our recommended providers? Leave us your comments and suggestions down below!
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.