By Ryan Porth
In years past, this would usually be the day the NHL released the schedule. Since it was unveiled right before the draft (and when I was out west), today we take a look at some dates you’ll want circled on your hockey calendar this season…
1. Outdoor games: January 1 & February 20
For the first time, the NHL will have a pair of outdoor games to showcase. The annual Winter Classic heads to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field for a great matchup between the Penguins and Capitals – arguably the hottest rivalry in the game today. Over a month later, McMahon Stadium in Calgary will play host to the Flames and Canadiens in the Heritage Classic. Both games should be must-see TV for any hockey fan!
2. Home openers: October 7 & October 9
Out of the 30 openers around the league, two stick out like a sore thumb. On opening night, the Penguins open up their new arena, Consol Energy Center. After leaving Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh will open ‘The House that Sid Built’ against rival Philadelphia.
Two nights later in Chicago, the Blackhawks will raise their championship banner – with the Red Wings in the house! It was a slick move for them to open the home season against Detroit. I’m sure there will also be some sort of ceremony for the late Bob Probert, who played for both teams.
3. Hockey Day in Canada: February 12
This is always one of my favorites day of the year, where you sit in front of the tube and watch CBC’s coverage all… day… long! The festivities kick off with a matinee in Edmonton between the Oilers and Senators; the primetime game features bitter rivals Montreal and Toronto; and the night-cap also features rivals – this time it’s the Flames traveling to Vancouver! Hockey Day in Canada will be broadcasted live from Whitehouse, Yukon.
4. Flyers at Blackhawks: January 23
The rematch of the Stanley Cup Final takes place in the Windy City, where the Blackhawks will welcome back the Flyers to the ‘Madhouse’. Chicago defeated Philadelphia 4-2 in this spring’s final, and the series was won in overtime of Game 6 by Patrick Kane. There will be some new faces in this tilt, but the intensity will ratchet up once again!
5. Compuware NHL Premiere: October 7 – October 10
For the fourth straight year, the league will open its season overseas. Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Prague, Czech Republic will play host to six teams over a four-day span. The Wild and Hurricanes get the party started in Helsinki on October 7, while the Bruins and Coyotes end it on October 10 in Prague. In Stockholm, San Jose and Columbus will also play two games. The thing I like most about these games? They are all matinee affairs… a great way to kick off the season!
Other dates to remember:
October 30: 14 games (busiest day of season)
January 30: All-Star Game in Raleigh
February 20: Hockey Day in America
April 13: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin!
Notable playoff rematches:
October 9: Canadiens at Penguins
October 9: Kings at Canucks
October 20: Canucks at Blackhawks
November 24: Blackhawks at Sharks
December 1: Bruins at Flyers
December 28: Canadiens at Capitals
** Ryan is a diehard hockey fan that would prefer to watch a Leafs-Islanders regular season replay over any NBA game! He’s been the editor in chief of RLD Hockey since it started in 2008, and also contributes to Inside Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter here.