The good news is that very little has changed since last year in the way people get access to live Canadiens game broadcasts on TV and online. After the 2014 switch of National Hockey League TV rights from CBC to Rogers in a 12-year, $5.2-billion deal, things have settled down.
The bad news is also that very little has changed. And the Rogers/TVA national rights deal with the NHL and RDS’s regional deal with the Canadiens won’t expire until 2026.
The one question mark rights-wise in the near future is Rogers’s deal with the Canadiens for English-language regional TV rights. This season will be the last of a three-year deal with the team, which marked the first time all 82 regular-season games were available in English.
In English: Like last season, most Canadiens games will be available on Sportsnet East, and 38 will be available only to the Canadiens broadcast region, which includes Atlantic Canada, Quebec and part of eastern Ontario. The 44 broadcast nationally (more than any other Canadian team) include all Saturday games, all Wednesday games and all but one Sunday game. They’ve also helpfully included the game on March 2 when P.K. Subban returns to the Bell Centre with the Nashville Predators. Gone are Canadiens regional games being bumped from Sportsnet to City Montreal on Thursday nights when they conflict with NFL games. Instead, Canadiens Thursday games until Christmas will all be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet 360. A total of nine games are scheduled for Sportsnet 360, and four for Sportsnet One (including some games on multiple channels), but that could change if new conflicts arise in 2017, particularly with the Toronto Blue Jays, which have priority on Sportsnet.
On Saturday nights, Hockey Night in Canada splits games between CBC, City, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet One. Rogers decides on the Saturday channel lineup a week or two in advance, though the Maple Leafs are almost always on CBC.
In French: TVA Sports once again has the national rights to 22 Canadiens games, which includes 20 Saturday night games, the home opener on Oct. 18, and the Hockey Day in Canada afternoon game on Feb. 18. The other 60 games, including the Saturday Super Bowl weekend matinée, are on RDS, and only available regionally.
Online: Those who want to watch games online or on mobile devices have a few options:
- Subscribe to NHL GameCentre Live, which costs $200 for the season or $30 a month. For people in Quebec, this will only give them access to the 44 nationally broadcast Canadiens games. Those west of Belleville, Ont., will get all 82 games, or can get just the RDS games for $60 for the season.
- Use the mobile TV app of your TV service provider (Illico for Vidéotron, Bell Mobile TV for Bell Fibe, FreeRange TV for Shaw Direct). But Vidéotron offers TVA Sports but not Sportsnet or RDS, and Bell offers RDS and Sportsnet but not TVA Sports. Cogeco offers TVA Sports and Sportsnet but not RDS. The inability of Canada’s vertically integrated broadcasters to co-operate is still hurting sports fans.
- Subscribe to Sportsnet Now. Launched April 1, this service allows you to watch Sportsnet East/Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360 without a cable provider for $25 a month plus taxes. Those in the Canadiens’ region can watch all Canadiens games that air on Sportsnet channels (but not those on CBC and City, though CBC streams its games online for free), in English on a mobile device, tablet or computer.
Programming-wise, there have been some changes from Rogers in the off-season. Gone from Canadiens regional broadcasts is host Chantal Desjardins, replaced by Kyle Bukauskas. Hockey Night in Canada, meanwhile, has gone back to its roots, dumping George Stroumboulopoulos and putting Ron MacLean back in the host chair. It’s also bringing back After Hours, the late-night wrap-up show that follows the West Coast game on Saturday nights, hosted by Scott Oake. Both moves reverse changes that Rogers made when it took over Hockey Night in 2014.
Radio: On the radio, the situation is unchanged. TSN Radio 690 and 98.5 FM will broadcast every regular-season and playoff game.
To help you know which channel the Canadiens games are on, we’ve created a printable two-page schedule of the 82 regular-season games. This schedule is designed for people who live in the Canadiens’ broadcast region (in blue below).
If you live in Toronto, northern Ontario or Western Canada (everything in red above), see this story for information on how to watch the Canadiens and download a printable schedule designed for you.
Photo: Dario Ayala/Montreal Gazette