Blacked out on TSN2 or RDS? Here's how to watch Canadiens games from Ontario and Western Canada

A guide to how to watch Canadiens games from outside its broadcast region.

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This story has been updated for the 2023-24 season.

Sportsnet, RDS, TSN, the Canadiens, Rogers and the National Hockey League have all heard your complaints about regional hockey blackouts on TV. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough for the league to change its policy, so if you don’t live in the Canadiens broadcast region (the Ottawa valley and everywhere east of that), you’re once again only going to have access to 32 Canadiens games this season on TV — unless you want to shell out some extra cash.

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Year 10 of Rogers’s 12-year, $5.2-billion NHL rights deal is pretty well the same as last year — rights to Canadiens games are shared between Sportsnet and TSN in English and TVA Sports and RDS in French.

We don’t have the power to change the policy, but we’ll try to do our best here to explain it and give you options.

Why are hockey games blacked out?

National Hockey League games are split into two categories: national and regional (and for added confusion, one game can be in separate categories for English Canadian, French Canadian and U.S. broadcasts). National games, which include games on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday evenings (but not afternoon or late-night games) and all playoff games, are sold by the league to a national rights-holder. This is what Rogers bought before reselling the French rights to TVA Sports.

Regional games are sold by the individual teams. The Canadiens sold their French regional rights to RDS and English regional rights to TSN after three years with Sportsnet. RDS’s deal lasts until 2026 (same as the Rogers national deal), while TSN has not disclosed when its deal expires.

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Regional games must be blacked out in other regions to protect the teams in those regions. In other words, if you’re a Torontonian who wants to watch all the Canadiens games, you’re prevented from doing so not because of the Canadiens, but because of the need to protect the Toronto Maple Leafs’ territory and maximize the price of its regional rights deal.

NHL broadcast regions for Canadian teams.
NHL broadcast regions for Canadian teams. Photo by Rogers

Generally, each NHL team has an exclusive region that’s a 50-mile (80-kilometre) radius from its home city, and places that aren’t that close to an NHL team get added to the nearest team’s region. There are lots of exceptions to that policy, like the New York City area that has three teams. There are also some shared regions: Montreal and Ottawa share the same region, as do Edmonton and Calgary. And some places can be in more than one region — like Saskatchewan, which has access to Oilers, Flames and Jets games.

These kinds of regional policies exist in other sports too, like baseball, basketball and NFL football. But because Canada doesn’t have more than one team in any of those sports, it’s not an issue that fans notice as much in other leagues.

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How do I know if I’m in the Canadiens broadcast region?

The Canadiens (and Senators) broadcast region is defined as Quebec, the four Atlantic provinces and the part of Ontario that’s east of a line connecting the towns of Pembroke and Belleville. If you’re in that region, you should be able to watch all Canadiens and Senators games on TV. (The NHL website provides a postal code lookup to check which region you’re in.)

If you live in the area around the region’s border, which region you’re in could depend on what street you live on or what TV provider you have. The NHL warns that these borders are not cleanly defined.

Which games are available nationally?

In English: The 32 regular-season games broadcast nationally include all games on Wednesday, Saturday and Monday evenings (but not afternoon or late-night games). Any game listed on the Canadiens schedule as being on TSN2 is regional. All the rest, plus all playoff games, are national.

In French: The 22 regular-season games on TVA Sports are national (all Saturday nights, plus the season opener), plus all playoff games. The 60 games on RDS are regional.

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We’ve prepared a downloadable two-page schedule (PDF) that lists all the nationally broadcast games in bold. For up-to-date information about which channel a game is on, check out the Canadiens schedule page or pregame stories from the Montreal Gazette.

What are my options if I live outside the region?

Your first option is to just live with it. Rogers is broadcasting 32 of the 82 regular-season games nationally, including Wednesday, Saturday and Monday evening games, and all playoff games. If you’re a casual fan, that might be enough for you.

If that’s unacceptable, here are other things you can do:

  • Subscribe to NHL Centre Ice through your TV service. This is the official solution to your problem. NHL Centre Ice is designed to offer out-of-market games. But it’s expensive, at $210 for the year. Offered through some TV providers, it runs on a series of temporary channels that will give you access not just to the Canadiens games but almost every game broadcast in the U.S. as well. Centre Ice has only out-of-market games, so you still need a subscription to Sportsnet and whatever channel your local team’s regional games are on (for when the Canadiens are playing that team). (NHL Centre Ice is available from Bell, Rogers, Cogeco, Shaw, Telus, Eastlink, Tbaytel and Sasktel. For details, ask your provider.)
  • Subscribe to Sportsnet+ Premium online. The premium version of the Rogers streaming service (formerly called Sportsnet NOW), which offers Sportsnet, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360 and more for online streaming, includes national and out-of-market NHL games, as well as in-market games that Sportsnet has rights to. This means you’ll get any NHL game except those that are available locally on a TSN channel. The service costs $35 a month or $250 for a yearly subscription. The basic Sportsnet+ service at $15 a month includes national games and games “exclusive to Sportsnet”, which will not get access to blacked-out Canadiens games.
  • Buy the NHL Centre Ice French package. This is Rogers’s streaming offer to expat Canadiens fans who were used to RDS broadcasting each game nationally, and it gives out-of-market fans access to just the regional Canadiens and Senators games broadcast by RDS. With most providers it costs $60 for the season (or $1 for each of the 60 Canadiens games RDS will broadcast). This will get you all regular-season games except those that air on TVA Sports, which you can get by just subscribing to TVA Sports. Note that this is only available outside the Canadiens/Senators region. It does not include any playoff games. A similar package for streaming is not being made available this year, though French-language out-of-market broadcasts are included in Sportsnet+ Premium.
  • Listen on the radio. Radio broadcasts aren’t subject to blackouts, and all games are streamed from TSN Radio 690 in English and 98.5fm in French. You can combine that with the Hockey Inside/Out live blog and after-the-fact highlight clips.
  • Get an illegal bootlegged stream online. We’re not encouraging this, and we won’t help you find them, but this is technically an option, and it’s used by a lot of people. Broadcasters have been fighting pirated streams hard, even getting court approval to force internet providers to pre-emptively block them. And don’t be fooled by all those ads you see on social media for streaming boxes that offer thousands of channels for only a few dollars a month. Those are also pirated feeds and could disappear if the broadcasters’ lawyers get to them.

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What is TV authentication?

Broadcasters pay a lot of money for rights to NHL games, and they need subscription fees and advertising revenue to pay for it. So to get access to a hockey broadcast that is available on TV in your region, you need to either subscribe to a streaming service carrying the broadcast or prove you’re a subscriber to the TV channel offering the game.

This is done by the broadcaster’s streaming app having you log in to your TV service provider, which shares your subscription information with the app. Unfortunately, not all broadcasters and TV providers play well together, and if the broadcaster and your TV provider don’t have an agreement in place, you’re out of luck.

What if I live in the U.S.?

Besides the games where the Canadiens play the team from your region, you won’t see much of the Habs on TV. ESPN, TNT and ABC have the national U.S. rights and none of them have any Canadiens games on their schedules. There will be some games on NHL Network, however.

NHL Center Ice is also available in the U.S., and out-of-market games are available on ESPN+. Rogers has nothing to do with either of these services, and similar to Canada, if the game is available on regular TV, it will be blacked out on them.

How can I change this insanity? Where do I bring the petition?

You can’t. The broadcasters, especially Rogers, would love nothing more than to make this easier for you. But these decisions are driven by economics. If you want things to change, though, the target of your disdain should be the National Hockey League (and by extension its team owners), not the broadcasters or the CRTC.

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