With the Chicago Blackhawks set to open the abbreviated 2021 NHL season Wednesday night, area hockey fans may be wondering how to watch games.
Ticket holders won’t be allowed in the United Center, at least to begin the 56-game season, so it’s best to be prepared to watch games on TV.
We’re here to help with a viewing guide.
Where will I find Chicago Blackhawks games on TV?
The vast majority of games — 50 of 56 — will be available through NBC Sports Chicago, its website and MyTeams app if you subscribe to a cable, satellite or streaming service that carries the regional sports network. Its first game of the season will be Friday night.
Pat Foley will call the action with Eddie Olczyk as lead analyst.
Wait, if it starts Friday, where will I find the season opener Wednesday night vs. the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning?
Cable’s NBC Sports Network plucked that 7 p.m. game as the creme filling in an opening night Oreo. It’s sandwiched between the Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers at 4:30 p.m., and the St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche at 9:30 p.m.
Calling the Blackhawks-Lightning game will be John Forslund with commentary from Olczyk and Brian Boucher.
What about the pregame and postgame shows?
NBCSN has “NHL Live” set for 4:15 p.m Wednesday with former Blackhawk Patrick Sharp, as well as Kathryn Tappen, Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie (not to be confused with Rick Moranis’ “Great White North” hoser from TV, film and commercials).
But perhaps you meant Blackhawks studio shows. Even though it doesn’t have the opener, NBC Sports Chicago still plans to present a 6:30 p.m. pregame show featuring its studio team of Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers. After the game ends on NBCSN, they hope viewers will return for the local postgame show.
What other Blackhawks games will be on national TV?
The Blackhawks’ game against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 24, set for an 11:30 a.m. start, will be on NBC-5. In addition to the opener, NBCSN plans to pick up Jan. 27 at Nashville, Feb. 17 at Detroit, Feb. 28 vs. Detroit and April 21 vs. Nashville. That’s the way it stands as of this writing. The national schedule is not in ink and subject to change.
So, the only regular-season game available over free, over-the-air broadcast TV is Jan. 24?
For now, that’s how it stands, yes.
What happens when there’s a conflict with the Bulls?
Two of NBC Sports Chicago’s Blackhawks telecasts actually will be on the secondary NBC Sports Chicago Plus. They are Feb. 15 at Detroit and Feb. 20 at Carolina.
What if I can’t watch games on NBC Sports Chicago because my service provider doesn’t carry it or I don’t subscribe to a cable, satellite, or streaming service?
This is the state of sports today. Sorry. There’s that one game on NBC-5.
Have Dish and Sling worked out a carriage deal with NBC Sports Chicago?
They have not. It has been more than a year since they have carried NBC Sports Chicago — TV home of the Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox — since late 2019. (They also do not carry the Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network.) It’s not a great service if you’re a Chicago pro sports fan.
What if I can’t watch games on NBC Sports Chicago because I live out of market?
You can get access to NHL games through the league’s TV plans. You can subscribe for all season ($99.99), on single-team basis ($84.99) or monthly ($24.99). Blackouts and other restrictions apply, so read the fine print.
Do you have the complete schedule on you?
We shared it when it was released earlier. Click here.
How about radio?
The Blackhawks still are on WGN-AM 720. It’s play-by-play man John Wiedeman and analyst Troy Murray, joined by Chris Boden.
Will announcers go on the road with the team?
For the time being, COVID-19 protocols require local announcers to work off monitors from a Chicago studio.
Is the NHL doing anything to make up some of the lost revenue from fewer games?
Yes. Each divisions now has a sponsor. If you find that tawdry, feel free to ignore it. If you want to see more of that sort of thing in sports, by all means, don’t hold it against the sponsors or the league.