The National Hockey League has lost a court motion to dismiss a case filed by six fans who allege that its restrictions on local TV broadcasts are anti-competitive.

The case is expected to proceed to trial early in 2015. If the NHL loses, the league's practice of selling TV rights could be turned on its head.

Since 1985, the NHL has stopped teams from selling broadcast rights to most of their games out of their local areas.

If this latest litigation is successful, it's possible that popular teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks could begin selling their broadcast rights throughout the United States.

In a lawsuit filed in New York two years ago, a group of disgruntled fans claimed that the restrictions on broadcasting were inappropriately driving up the price of sports cable television packages.

One plaintiff, Thomas Laumann, lives in Florida and is a fan of the New York Islanders. Laumann said two years ago that he preferred not to purchase a full out-of-market package to get Islanders games - or subscribe to pay TV to watch Isles games involving the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, which are blacked out when he tries to watch them through NHL Gamecenter Live.

The lawsuit also attacks the NHL's tactic of charging customers $179.80 for its full-season offering of games available on cable and satellite providers. Again, both of those packages, known as NHL Center Ice, black out in-market games.

The NHL subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the case and a judge ruled this week against that motion. The ruling was unsealed on Friday.