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The NHL Hates Us All.  A Review of NHL.TV

If you’re a fan of the NHL and use NHL.TV services you probably already know this: The NHL hates you. If they could afford it, the NHL would send an individual to each and every fan’s home with the express purpose of punching that fan in the face. Where appropriate, said individual would trample through the fan’s flowers and/or knock over the fan’s mailbox. Later, the NHL would send the fan a bill and make him create another account on to dispute it. Then, to activate your “service,” he’d have to set up another account on their sister site, He wouldn’t be able to log into the app without those credentials.

“Zimmer, you have beef here!” Yes, I do. Here’s the beef breakdown.

Beef #1: The NHL Network isn’t offered on the NHL’s streaming service. This is bizarre to me. I would like the news and analysis that the NHL Network has. Nope.

Beef #2: NHL Network blackout. When the NHL Network broadcasts a game, it’s considered a nationally televised game. Therefore, you can’t watch it on the NHL.TV. Follow the logic here: The NHL Network broadcasts a game on its network and that blacks-out a game on the NHL’s streaming service. Makes total sense doesn’t it?

Wait! There’s more!

I would consider ordering a cable package with the NHL Network. It’s unlikely as I “cut the cord” 3 years ago but it’s possible. But…my cable provider doesn’t carry the NHL Network. So here’s where we are now: the NHL blacks-out games on its streaming service that appear on its network that isn’t available in many markets. Aces!

Solution? The NHL should carry the games on its network through its service. See, I fixed the problem.

Beef #3: The Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s the pinnacle of the season. I’m on the edge of my seat for 6 weeks. But I can’t watch it on the NHL’s streaming service. EVER. Bad, yes, but it gets worse.

In the first round of the playoffs this year, Columbus played Pittsburgh (the defending champs). Those games were blacked out. If you lived in Columbus or Pittsburgh you could watch them on the local channels but if you didn’t – and I don’t want to upset people here, but not many people live in those two markets – you couldn’t LEGALLY watch the games. The sheer absurdity of this is hard to fully grasp. Could you imagine the NFL blacking out its playoffs? Partially for public safety purposes (i.e., riot control), it never would. Can you imagine the NBA not broadcasting the playoffs nationally? The NHL boggles the mind as well as the imagination.

When you get further into the season, the games shift to NBC / NBCSN. All I can write here is this: The NHL best be thinking about how many people are canceling their cable subscriptions. The writing is on the wall, NHL. Read it.

Beef #4: Inconsistent App. For now, I’m driving my living room TV off of a Roku. I don’t like the Roku but this isn’t a review of that. The App and the controls for the app are just terrible. They are the most rudimentary, unappealing, feature-starved display I’ve ever seen. You’re ability to reverse and fast forward is like something out of the 80’s. The iPhone, iPad, and PS4 are better. But across all of the platforms, there’s simply no consistency. Some of the features look and feel like they were designed and scoped by a monkey with a dartboard.

In the end, the NHL simply didn’t start by thinking, “What would absolutely delight fans of the NHL?” They started with, “How can NHL viewers stream some games to their devices? *Pending blackouts. *Pending existing contracts. *Pending any difficulty that we don’t have time for right now. *Pending other things we have going on. There’s a big difference between these two approaches. They frame how you develop, price, and deliver a product. And by asking the latter question, the NHL delivered a profoundly inferior offering.

I’m not optimistic about next year’s product.

  1. I want to express my apologies to monkeys everywhere who may have been offended by my implication that they would design the NHL’s app and service. I have not ever, nor will I ever engage in inter-species flame wars. Monkeys are an invaluable member of our ecosystem. I regret the error.

  2. There are myriad ILLEGAL ways of watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I don’t endorse those. The NHL should work hard to make their product available though. Information wants to be free.

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