Are You Ready for a Frozen Frenzy?
By Scott Lowe - MYHockeyRankings.com
For the first time in a few years, it should be easy for those of us in the United States to figure out which National Hockey League teams are playing Tuesday night and how we can view the games.
That’s because of a unique early season league-wide NHL promotion being dubbed “Frozen Frenzy.” On Oct. 24, all 32 NHL teams will be in action, with starting times staggered to make it possible for remote-savvy fans to jump around and potentially catch the key moments from just about every game.
The action begins Tuesday at 6 p.m. EDT when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Capitals in Washington on ESPN and ESPN+. The evening’s final matchup faces off at 11 p.m. EDT and features the Philadelphia Flyers facing the defending-champion Vegas Golden Knights.
That matchup also can be seen on ESPN and ESPN+. In between, there are 14 additional games, one of which can be seen on ESPN and ESPN+. The other 13 contests are available on various regional sports networks and on ESPN+ for those who subscribe.
Puck drop for the middle game of the ESPN/ESPN+ tripleheader is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EDT, with the Boston Bruins traveling to Chicago to challenge first-overall draft-pick Connor Bedard and the Blackhawks.
If none of those games appeals to you, the night’s second contest, Anaheim at Columbus, faces off at 6:30 p.m. EDT with games starting every 15 to 45 minutes after that right up until the Arizona-Los Angeles puck drop at 10:30 p.m. EDT. That game precedes the 11 p.m. finale between Philly and Vegas.
To top it off, those of us familiar with the programming wizardry of the National Football League’s RedZone Channel will be excited to learn that a similar whip-around-style Frozen Frenzy show hosted by John Buccigross will air throughout the evening on ESPN+ and ESPN2. That programming will run from 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. EDT on ESPN+ and from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on ESPN2.
Although it appears as though the hockey marathon will be competing against baseball’s National League Championship Series Game 7 and going up against two games on the National Basketball Association’s opening night, it’s an innovative approach by the NHL to market the sport nationwide for an entire evening. While the timing seems a bit strange given the NBA and Major League Baseball conflicts, the staggered start times and whip-around show may attract eyeballs that normally wouldn’t be on the sport this time of year during breaks in the baseball and basketball games.
Perhaps even more important, this special night of hockey may serve as a reminder to U.S. hockey fans that televised NHL games are more accessible than ever thanks to the league’s broadcast partnerships with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting (TBS an TNT). There was a lot of excitement and anticipation when the NHL moved its games to the “Worldwide Leader” and TBS/TNT from NBC three years ago. Those deals brought credibility and increased visibility to a sport and a league that had fought a long – and often futile – battle to be accepted as one of the nation’s major professional leagues.
The excitement among American hockey fans that the move to ESPN generated was palpable, and we even wrote about it here as opening night 2021 approached. Many of us thought that it was a major step forward for the sport we all loved that the world’s most popular sports network, which often had been accused of ignoring hockey, was willing to pay huge sums of money to purchase the rights to televise NHL games.
But while the ESPN and Turner deals were great PR for the sport and provided a higher likelihood that more mainstream sports fans would stumble across games on a major national network, enjoy the viewing experience and come back for more at later date, the schedule of games on the various networks and viewing platforms was confusing to many diehard hockey fans and took more than a little getting used to.
No doubt the new partnerships have made more games available at a more affordable price than ever before across multiple platforms. Still, figuring out which teams are playing on which platform and at what time has proven to be challenging for the diehards who had become accustomed to the routine of watching most of their favorite team’s games on a regional sports network and jumping to NBC or NBC Sports Network for an occasional nationally televised game. And what had been a simple process for fans whose favorite teams were located outside the market in which they lived and those fans who wanted to be able to watch virtually any game of their choice, also became a little more difficult to navigate.
For years, those fans had been able to tune into the games of their choice simply by purchasing the NHL Center Ice package offered by DirecTV and various cable-television outlets nationwide. The Center Ice package still exists, but purchasing it in conjunction with standard cable or satellite programming doesn’t ensure that viewers can access every game. Part of ESPN’s deal with the NHL includes the right to televise games “nationally” only on its ESPN+ platform, which costs $10.99 per month or $109.99 per year.
Center Ice costs $69.99 for the full season on top of monthly cable and satellite fees. It advertises up to 40 out-of-market games per week, while for $10.99 per month ESPN+ provides access to up to 50 games per week, including the exclusive telecasts that aren’t available elsewhere.
Given that ESPN+ also provides live coverage of countless other college and professional sporting events throughout the year – as well as other popular and acclaimed live and on-demand original sports programming – for most hockey and sports fans it makes sense to purchase that instead of the Center Ice package. ESPN+ is a streaming service, which also is advantageous to people who travel frequently and want to be able to watch their favorite team or any other teams play while on the road.
The problem is that none of this really was explained fully as the NHL transitioned to new partner networks, and there really isn’t anywhere fans can go to learn how it all works in clear and concise terms. That has created confusion, and to this day many fans are caught off guard the first time that their favorite team is on an ESPN “Hockey Night” telecast that is only available on ESPN+.
My family experienced some of the initial confusion that came with the new NHL TV deals. For more than 25 years we have had a DirecTV satellite dish, and we purchased the Center Ice package pretty much every year. For the 2021-22 season we continued to pay for Center Ice, which renewed automatically, without realizing that through ESPN+, which we already were paying for as well, we could watch all of the Center Ice games and more. It took a few months to figure that out, and we were able to cancel Center Ice for the following season.
Some of the confusion continues today, especially this time of year as the hockey season gets underway. Just last Friday our hometown team was scheduled to play its season opener. We thought that we had seen and heard that the game was an ESPN “NHL Hockey Night” broadcast, so as we arrived home just before puck drop we turned on ESPN only to realize that the game wasn’t on.
Then we tried our local sports network. No luck. Next we checked TBS. Nope. Then TNT. No dice. Finally, after more than 10 minutes of searching, it dawned on us to check the ESPN+ app and see if the game was on there. Bingo!
We’ve been a hockey family forever, but we also are very much a sports-oriented family with one adult who has worked in sports at various levels for nearly 30 years and another who is a longtime high-school athletic director. Both kids are college athletes.
Sports are a huge part of our lives, and it’s a rare night in which family members aren’t watching some kind of sporting event on one or more of our televisions. If the NHL’s broadcasting schedule is confusing to us, it would make sense that it would be even more difficult to navigate for the more casual hockey and average sports fan.
For the hundreds of millions of dollars the networks are paying to broadcast the games – as well as for the general health and well-being of the sport now and in the future – it seems like it would be good idea for the networks and the leagues to go out of their way to advertise and educate fans about the television schedule regularly.
This season, the NHL Public Relations social-media account (@PR_NHL on Twitter) has been posting a daily schedule of games along with how they can be viewed. This is a great idea, but it seems like that information also should be shared via the main NHL social-media accounts. On the platform formerly known as Twitter, the NHL account has 6.8 million followers compared to the PR account’s 250,000 or so. Maybe creating a general graphic that includes all of the broadcast partner logos would encourage them to post the daily schedule as well, which undoubtedly would reach millions of additional social media accounts.
And maybe Tuesday’s Frozen Frenzy also can serve as an educational tool for casual and diehard fans. Why not use those 7-1/2 hours to drive home the weekly schedule of national games and other hockey-related programming that can be found on the various ESPN outlets as well as TBS, TNT and even NHL Network?
In the meantime, get ready to enjoy an unforgettable night of wall-to-wall hockey.
Here is a quick look at the Frozen Frenzy schedule and matchups:
6:00 p.m. EDT – Toronto at Washington on ESPN/ESPN+
Two of the game’s all-time great goal-scorers, Auston Mathews and Alexander Ovechkin, go head to head in an exciting matchup to kick off the night’s festivities. Matthews has gotten off to a red-hot start with hat tricks in the first two games for the 3-2-0 Leafs, while Ovie and his mates have struggled to find their footing under first-year head Coach Spencer Carbery. Matthews hasn’t scored since those games and is tied for second in the league with six goals. Washington is 0-2-1, and Ovechkin has just two assists on the year. Will this be his breakout game?
6:30 p.m. EDT – Anaheim at Columbus on ESPN+
Columbus is off to a solid 3-2-0 start, while the Ducks have won just one of their first five games. Skilled forward Frank Vatrano has paced the Anaheim attack with four goals and an assist, while Boone Jenner also has 4-1-5 for the Blue Jackets.
6:45 p.m. EDT – Buffalo at Ottawa on ESPN+
Two of the league’s exciting young teams face off in what should be a game full of speed and skill. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin leads Buffalo in points with 0-5-5, and Dylan Cozens paces the team in goals with 2 to go along with 2 assists. Brady Tkachuk has 4-2-6 to lead the Sens in goals and points.
7:00 p.m. EDT – Carolina at Tampa Bay on ESPN+
A pair of teams that have been at or near the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the past several years square off as the 2-2-2 Lightning host the 3-3-0 Hurricanes in Florida. Superstar Nikita Kucherov leads Tampa Bay in goals with 6 and points with 9. Seth Jarvis paces the Canes with 4-3-7.
7:15 p.m. EDT – New Jersey at Montreal on ESPN+
The Devils head to the Belle Centre with a 2-1-1 record that is identical to that of the host Canadiens. Jack Hughes has picked up right where he left off last season, notching 4-6-10 thus far to lead the Devils in goals and points. Another young star, Cole Caufield, scored the OT game-winner vs. Washington Saturday and leads Montreal with 3-2-5.
7:30 p.m.– Dallas at Pittsburgh on ESPN+
Despite a fast 3-0-1 start, the Stars still find themselves three points behind Colorado in the Central Division. Meanwhile, the aging-but-talented Penguins are 2-3-0 and near the bottom of the Metro. A pair of familiar veteran faces lead these teams offensively. Joe Pavelski has 3-2-5 for Dallas, while Evegni Malkin has 4-4-8 for the Pens.
7:45 p.m. EDT – San Jose at Florida on ESPN+
The Panthers may be shaking off a bit of a Stanley Cup Finals hangover in opening the season with a 2-3-0 record. San Jose finds itself at the bottom of the Pacific Division and is still looking for its first win at 0-4-1. Tomas Hertl’s 1-4-5 leads the Sharks, while Sam Reinhart paces Florida with 6-2-8.
8:00 p.m. EDT – Colorado at N.Y. Islanders on ESPN+
One of the hottest teams in the NHL invades Long Island looking to extend its unbeaten streak to 6, while the Islanders look to improve on their 2-1-1 mark. At 5-0-0, Colorado’s balanced attack has been led by Mikko Rantanen, who has 4-4-8. Brock Nelson leads the Isles with 3-1-4.
8:15 p.m. EDT – Seattle at Detroit on ESPN+
It’s the surprise team of last season facing the surprise club of 2023-24 as the 1-4-1 Kraken play the 5-1-0 Red Wings in Detroit. Defenseman Vince Dunn leads Seattle with 1-4-5, and new-acquisition Alex DeBrincat has been on fire for high-flying Detroit with 8-2-10.
8:30 p.m. EDT – Boston at Chicago on ESPN/ESPN+
They may be missing some old familiar faces, but the Bruins still have a lot of veterans with star power as they take on the NHL’s newest generational star Connor Bedard. Despite the changes, the Bruins have sprinted out of the gates once again to a 5-0-0 record. Chicago is a respectable 2-4-0 but still sits at the bottom of the Central Division. As usual, David Pastrnak leads Boston with 5-3-8. Veteran Corey Perry is the surprise offensive leader for Chicago with 2-3-5.
8:45 p.m. EDT – St. Louis at Winnipeg on ESPN+
It’s a Central Division showdown as the 2-1-1 Blues take on the 2-3-0 Jets in Western Canada. Speedy Jacob Vrana leads St. Louis with 1-2-3, while newly re-signed vet Mark Scheifele paces Winnipeg with 4-2-6.
9:00 p.m. EDT – Edmonton at Minnesota on ESPN+
The Oilers will be without injured superstar Connor McDavid as they travel to Minnesota to face the Wild carrying a 1-3-1 record. At 2-1-1, Minnesota has been led by Joel Ericsson Ek, who has 4-3-7. Leon Draisaitl is Edmonton’s scoring leader with 4-5-9.
9:15 p.m. EDT – Vancouver at Nashville on ESPN+
Late starts don’t seem to bother the good folks of Nashville as they always seem ready to pack the building to support their Preds. The hosts are 3-3-0, while the Canucks come to town with a 3-2-0 record that places them second in the Pacific Division. Elias Petterson paces Vancouver with 2-8-10, with Brock Boeser adding a team-high 6 goals. Filip Forsberg has 1-4-5 to lead Nasvhille, while Tommy Novak has a team-best 4 goals.
9:45 p.m. EDT – N.Y. Rangers at Calgary on ESPN+
New York finds itself in second place in the Metro Division with a 3-2-0 record as the Rangers head to Western Canada to face the 2-3-1 Flames. Artemi Panarin leads the Blue Shirts in points with 3-4-7 and Chris Kreider is the goals leader with 4. Elias Lindholm has 6-2-4 to pace Calgary, while Andrew Mangiapane leads the team with 3 goals.
10:30 p.m. EDT – Arizona at Los Angeles on ESPN+
The Coyotes are off to a solid 3-2-0 start as they head to L.A. to face the 2-2-1 Kings. They are led by Clayton Keller, who has 3-3-6 to pace the team in points and goals. Kevin Fiala has 0-7-7 to top the Los Angeles scoring list, with Trevor Moore adding a team-best 4 goals.
11:00 p.m. EDT – Philadelphia at Vegas – on ESPN/ESPN+
The upstart Flyers sit atop the Metro Division at 3-1-1, a point ahead of the Rangers, as they prepare to face the defending champs. The Golden Knights are still on top of the league with a 6-0-0 record, the best start by the Stanley Cup champs in nearly 40 years. Travis Konecny has 5-2-7 and leads Philly in goals and points, while Chandler Stephenson’s 7 points and Jack Eichel’s 3 goals pace VGK.