To answer your most pressing question first: Yes, if you are an Islanders or Rangers fan who does not subscribe to ESPN+ or Hulu, there will be games this season you cannot watch in your home.
Ten of them, to be exact —six for the Islanders (the first being Nov. 16 against the Panthers), four for the Rangers (the first being Nov. 26 against the Bruins).
That is a key wrinkle in the NHL’s new national TV contracts with ESPN and Turner, and one that at least in the short term figures not to sit well with many fans.
But it is part of the new world of streaming live sports, and of ESPN’s push to expand that world, in this case using the NHL as a lure. (ESPN+ costs $70 a year or $7 a month.)
ESPN’s overall NHL deal includes 103 exclusive national games — 10 on ABC, 18 on ESPN and 75 on ESPN+ and Hulu. (All ABC games and two ESPN games will be simulcast on ESPN+.)
Turner’s 50-game package will be on traditional cable television, mostly TNT, and not require a streaming subscription.
In total, the Rangers have 13 exclusive games on national outlets and the Islanders have 12.
The two companies will share playoff coverage — all of which will be on traditional cable or broadcast TV — and alternate showing the Stanley Cup Final over the next seven years, starting with ABC/ESPN.
Another key aspect of the ESPN+ plan is more than 1,000 out-of-market games at no additional cost, which will replace the old (and far more expensive) NHL TV package.
It will allow, say, a Blackhawks fan living on Long Island to watch that team’s games, other than when they are playing a New York-area team.
"We saw this as a real opportunity for a very passionate fan base to be able to come to them with, hopefully, a good value proposition to say: This is going to be your one-stop shop for all things hockey," said Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN senior vice president of programming.
"I think a lot of times people are waiting for the catch . . . It is the base package. If you have ESPN+, you will have the out-of-market hockey package. Full stop."
This is going to take some getting used to for everyone after 16 years of NHL coverage on NBC.
But simply put, there is only one way to watch every Rangers or Islanders game (not including Comcast customers who currently are without MSG in a carriage dispute.)
Said Ben-Hanan, "If you’re a cable subscriber, let’s say in New York, you have access to ESPN and Turner and MSG through your cable subscription, and you have access to ESPN+ with your subscription, you’ll get it all."
It will come at a price, though.
Here are the basics for the regular season:
**ABC: 10 games, mostly on Saturday afternoons starting in February, including the All-Star Game, three involving the Rangers and none the Islanders.
**ESPN: 18 games, two involving the Islanders and one the Rangers.
**ESPN+/Hulu: 75 exclusive games, on Tuesdays plus Fridays and later Thursdays, six involving the Islanders and four the Rangers, as well a simulcasts of every ABC game and two ESPN games. Additionally, there will be more than 1,000 non-exclusive out-of-market games on the digital service.
ESPN announcers and analysts include Sean McDonough (lead play-by-play man), Steve Levy, Bob Wischusen, John Buccigross, Leah Hextall, Ray Ferraro, Brian Boucher, Mark Messier, Chris Chelios, Kevin Weekes, Linda Cohn, Barry Melrose, Rick DiPietro, A.J. Mleczko, Cassie Campell-Pascall and Hilary Knight.
**TNT: 50 games, mostly on Wednesdays, plus seven weeks of Sunday afternoons in March and April, four involving the Islanders and five the Rangers, starting Wednesday with the Rangers visiting the Capitals.
**Other TNT games: NHL Winter Classic, NHL Stadium Series, NHL Heritage Classic
TNT announcers and analysts include Kenny Albert (lead play-by-play man), Brendan Burke, Ed Olczyk, Darren Pang, Keith Jones, Wayne Gretzky, Anson Carter, Rick Tocchet and Paul Bissonnette.