The Canadiens begin their 2015-16 regular season on Wednesday night. And I’m told that among the most requested things of the sports department is a schedule of what games will be on what TV channel during the season.
So in Wednesday’s paper, I’ve replicated a chart I did a year ago that lists all 82 regular-season games, and an accompanying story explaining to Quebecers how to watch the Canadiens on TV or online.
I’ll let you read those stories to get all the details (if you have any more questions, let me know). The gist of it is that there haven’t been many major changes for this year — still 40 national Canadiens games in English and 22 in French, and you still need five channels in English and two in French to watch all of them.
In researching these stories, and through a series of emails with Rogers PR, I’ve learned a few bits of trivia about NHL TV rights and the Canadiens’ schedule in particular.
- English and French are considered two different universes as far as TV rights are concerned. What’s considered a national or regional NHL game differs by language. Not only must this upset TVA when there are national Canadiens games in English that aren’t in French (18 of them), but other teams in this country have the reverse — regional games in English that are also national on TVA Sports. Why the protectionism if people can just tune to another channel and watch it on mute?
- There will be a grand total of one Canadiens game on TSN this season, and you can watch it from Montreal. The Nov. 3 game against the Ottawa Senators is a regional game in both languages. And because the Canadiens and Senators share their region, Montreal and Ottawa aren’t blacked out from each other’s games. So for that night only, you can watch the Canadiens broadcast on City Montreal, or the Senators’ broadcast on TSN5. The Jets and Maple Leafs also have regional games on TSN (TSN3 and TSN4, respectively), but all the Canadiens’ games against those two teams this season are national.
- The only other time you’ll have a choice of broadcasts in English is the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. NBC broadcasts that game in addition to Sportsnet.
- There are only three games in the season that start before 7pm. People who think it unnatural to see the Canadiens play before it’s dark won’t be as frustrated this year. The only afternoon games are the Winter Classic (1pm) and the two Super Bowl weekend matinee games at the Bell Centre (2pm and 2:30pm)
- Schedule chaos will be at its worst in October. Rogers has scheduled the Canadiens on five different channels during the month (CBC, City, Sportsnet, Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 360), or seven if you consider City Montreal and Sportsnet East different from the complete City and Sportsnet networks. The big reason for this is the Major League Baseball playoffs. The Jays are making a run this year, and they get priority. On top of that, Sportsnet has the rights to Thursday night NFL games. So all regional games will be on City Montreal until mid-November, and all Thursday night regionals on City Montreal until the end of 2015.
- There are nine teams with broadcast regions in Canada. It’s not just the seven Canadian teams that stake their territories here. The NHL gives each time a 50-mile radius around their home to consider their region (unless another team is closer than that or teams share regions). That means the Buffalo Sabres get to consider the Niagara Peninsula as part of their region, and Sabres regional games are broadcast free on Bell TV to viewers there. The Detroit Red Wings could also claim the Windsor region, but it hasn’t sold regional TV rights to a Canadian broadcaster.
- Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Yukon are the best places to live in Canada. Well, numerically, anyway. Those three are part of the Oilers, Flames and Jets region, the only place to have access to three teams’ regional games on regular TV.
- You can’t stream regional Canadiens games online if you’re with Videotron in Quebec, no matter how much you pay. In-market regional games require TV authentication, either with the broadcaster’s own app or with NHL GameCentre Live. Neither of RDS’s app nor Sportsnet’s app nor GCL work with Videotron for those games. (National games are available on GCL in English without a TV subscription, and in French if you’re subscribed to TVA Sports.) Ironically, it would be easier for you to legally access these games online if you lived in Vancouver.
- The scheduled TV channels will change. In fact, they already have. Rogers has already moved the first Sunday night game from Sportsnet to Sportsnet One because of the Jays’ playoff run. A game on Oct. 29 was moved from Sportsnet One to Sportsnet 360 because that night’s NFL game was moved from Sportsnet to Sportsnet One to make room for baseball playoffs on Sportsnet. There could also be schedule conflicts later in the season (such as when the Jays begin their 2016 season). Last season, Rogers moved two April games from Sportsnet to Sportsnet 360 and City Montreal because of Jays games (one of which was a preseason game at Olympic Stadium).
- You’ll have access to 42 Canadiens games if you live in BC, YT or the Niagara region, 41 if you live in AB, SK, NT or NU, and 40 if you live in MB or ON. In addition to the 40 national games, you have access to the games in which the Canadiens play the team from your region (if those aren’t already national, which is the case for Leafs and Jets). But if you’re a Vancouver fan, that means you’ll need CBC, City, Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey and Sportsnet 360 to watch all 42 of those games.
- Actually, add one to each of those numbers. NHL Centre Ice is on free preview with most TV providers for the first week, so out-of-region fans can catch the Oct. 13 game against the Penguins as well without paying extra.
- The Canadiens schedule is available in ICS format, but it’s not easy to find. Last year, I created a downloadable calendar in ICS format that could be imported into calendar applications. I decided not to this year because it was quite a bit of work, it would have required constant updating as Rogers set its TV schedule, and there were was already a file available listing the Canadiens game in a calendar format. I tried to find a link to this file from the Canadiens website but couldn’t. I did find a similar file on another team’s website, and because NHL websites are standardized on the back end, replacing that team’s name with “Canadiens” in the URL got me the Canadiens file. So here’s the preseason and regular-season schedule in ICS format (it should update throughout the season, so if your calendar app links to it rather than downloading a copy, that’s even better). You can also download the schedule in CSV format to play in a spreadsheet (be sure to fix the errant extra comma in the Quebec City preseason game).
- No more ref cam. Kelly Greig actually spotted this one first. The refs during the first regular-season game weren’t wearing cameras on their helmets, which was one of the perks Rogers was hyping last year. “Ref Cam” is no longer listed as an alternative viewing angle for GamePlus subscribers, so I guess we can say that was a failed experiment. The Ref Cam made for some cool shots (like puck drops) but was too shaky to be really useful during live broadcasts.
- The quality of bootlegged streams has gone way up. There are people out there putting livestreams of Canadiens regional games in full HD (or close to it) on YouTube and other channels. They’re fly-by-night operations because this is of course illegal, but the complicated system the NHL and broadcasters have in place will no doubt push people to use them.