On February 25, 1940, the first telecast of a National Hockey League is transmitted over New York’s W2XBS—the National Broadcasting Company’s experimental station used to test TV technology. A viewing audience estimated at 300 subscribers watches the New York Rangers defeat the Montreal Canadiens, 6-2, at Madison Square Garden.
During the first, crude telecast, winger Phil Watson registered four points (all assists) and Bryan Hextall Sr.’s scored two goals for the Rangers.
The NHL TV broadcast came a year after the first televised Major League Baseball, college football and pro football games. The first World Series game was televised in 1947. Like the first NHL broadcast, it was flawed. Sunlight and shadows obscured the view of NBC cameras, and the network’s new and cumbersome equipment broke down.
In 1940, radio was, by far, the dominant broadcasting medium. Television use grew slowly over the decade.
By 1949, the nation boasted 1 million TV sets in use. By the 1950s, television had entered the mainstream, with more than half of all American homes owning TV sets by 1955. As the number of consumers expanded, new stations were created and more programs broadcast.
Since the first televised NHL game, the importance of television has exponentially increased for the league. In 2021, the league announced multi-million deals with ESPN and Turner Sports to broadcast games.