There will be 1,230 NHL regular-season games played between Oct. 1 and April 11 in such places as Stockholm, Helsinki and even Phoenix.
With so many different matchups to choose between in the coming months, The Canadian Press highlights 10 games that we’ll definitely be watching:
Oct. 1, 2009 – Vancouver at Calgary: One of four games on the season’s opening night features the two Canadian teams who appear to have the best chance to end the country’s long Stanley Cup drought. The best part about it? Both will still be undefeated heading in.
Oct. 3, 2009 – Pittsburgh at N.Y. Islanders: First overall pick John Tavares plays his first NHL game and he’ll do it against Sidney Crosby and the reigning Stanley Cup champs. As good as this matchup will be, hockey fans will be working their remotes hard on the first Saturday of the season – all 30 teams are in action over a 10-plus hour period, starting with Florida-Chicago in Helsinki and ending with Phoenix opening its year in Los Angeles.
Oct. 10, 2009 – Columbus at Phoenix: The Coyotes appear to be staying in Glendale for at least another season, but will anybody come out to watch them? The beleaguered team is selling all tickets to the home opener for $25 or less and encouraging fans to create a Winnipeg Jets-style whiteout at Jobing.com Arena.
Nov. 7, 2009 – Detroit at Toronto: A classy gesture by the NHL to have the Red Wings pay a rare visit to Air Canada Centre for the annual Hockey Hall of Fame Game. With former Detroit captain Steve Yzerman headlining a top-notch class that includes Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, Brett Hull and Lou Lamoriello, there will be some added buzz as those men are feted during a matchup of Original Six rivals.
Dec. 1, 2009 – Ottawa at San Jose: This game would be even more intriguing if it was played at Scotiabank Place instead of HP Pavilion. Even still, there should be plenty of curiosity surrounding Dany Heatley’s first matchup against the Senators since forcing his way out of Ottawa. An added level of intrigue comes from the fact it will be one of Heatley’s last games before the Canadian Olympic team is selected.
Jan. 1, 2010 – Philadelphia vs. Boston (at Fenway Park): While the outdoor game format might be losing some of its novelty, it should still be pretty cool to see the Green Monster towering over an NHL rink. This will be the third straight time the league has played outdoors on New Year’s Day – and the first two were a smashing success, particularly in the U.S.
Feb. 14, 2010 – Anaheim at Edmonton: On the surface, this looks like a game that won’t have much appeal to people who aren’t fans of either the Ducks or Oilers. However, it’s one the hockey world will be watching closely as it’s the last game to be played before the NHL breaks for the Vancouver Olympics.
March 13, 2010 – Ottawa at Vancouver: It should be interesting just to see if the Canucks actually find their way back to GM Place. This will be the team’s first game on home ice in 42 days – a stretch that will see it go on a 14-game road trip while the arena is used for the Olympics and Paralympics. Wow.
March 22, 2010 – Pittsburgh at Detroit: The teams that played for the past two Stanley Cups renew acquaintances at Joe Louis Arena. It should evoke some positive memories for Crosby’s crew as it will be their first trip back since a championship-clinching Game 7 in June.
April 11, 2010 – TBD: With eight games scheduled on the final day of the regular season, at least one of them is bound to feature a team facing a do-or-die situation to make the playoffs. The NHL has enjoyed a fair bit of parity in recent years and the battle for post-season spots always seems to come down to the final day of the season.