Joe Sakic will have his number retired when the NHL opens its 2009-2010 regular season Oct. 1, but first-round draft pick John Tavares will have to wait a couple of nights to play his first game for the New York Islanders.
The league’s schedule, released Wednesday, shows four clubs will kick off the season in Europe, while the Boston Bruins will welcome in the New Year by playing the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park on Jan. 1 in the 2010 Winter Classic.
The NHL will also break from Feb. 14 to March 1 for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. The Olympics being held in GM Place means the Vancouver Canucks will have a NHL-record, 14-game road trip sandwiched around the Games.
“It’s obviously something that is extraordinary for a team to be out of their building for a six-week period,” said Laurence Gilman, the Canuck’s assistant general manager.
Sakic, who announced his retirement last week after a 20-year career, will see his No. 19 raised at the Pepsi Centre prior to the Colorado Avalanche playing the San Jose Sharks.
Tavares, the high-scoring centre whose 72 goals in a season broke Wayne Gretzky’s junior record, will make his NHL debut on Oct. 3 when the Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins will hoist their 2009 Stanley Cup championship banner at the Mellon Arena Oct. 2 before playing the New York Rangers. Pittsburgh will play the Stanley Cup finalist Detroit Red Wings March 22 in Detroit.
The Red Wings will start the quest to reach their third consecutive Stanley Cup final by playing the St. Louis Blues Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers will play in Helsinki, Finland, on the same two nights.
There will be plenty of Canadian content on the league’s opening night.
The Calgary Flames, under new head coach Brent Sutter, will host the Vancouver Canucks while the Toronto Maple Leafs will play Original Six rival Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.
The first Saturday of the season will see all 30 NHL teams in action Oct. 3. Included among the full slate of games, the Edmonton Oilers will open their season at home in a Battle of Alberta against the Flames, while the Ottawa Senators get their first action in New York against the Rangers.
The Canucks play their first home game Oct. 5 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Montreal and Ottawa don’t play at home until Oct. 15 when the Canadiens host Colorado and the Senators play the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Phoenix Coyotes still don’t know who their owners are, but will open the season Oct. 3 in Los Angeles against the Kings. The Coyotes first home game will be Oct. 10 against Columbus.
Vancouver fans will endure a six-week gap where the Canucks don’t play at home.
In the lead-up to the Olympics, the Canucks will start an eight-game road trip Jan. 30 in Toronto. After the Olympics, Vancouver will kick off a six-game away stretch in Columbus.
The Canucks last home game before the Games will be Jan. 27 against St. Louis. They won’t play again at GM Place until March 13 against Ottawa.
Vancouver’s longest homestand is eight games, from Dec. 10 to Dec. 26.
The 1,230-game NHL regular season ends April 11. The Stanley Cup playoffs begins April 14.
Each of the league’s teams will play six games against each club in its division, four games against the non-division teams within its conference and 18 non-conference games. That includes at least one game against each club in the other conference and three home-and-home series against non-conference teams.
The Hall of Fame Game will see Detroit play Toronto on Nov. 7.
The Montreal Canadiens’ franchise will celebrate its 100th birthday Dec. 4 with a home game against Boston. The 100th anniversary of the Canadiens first game will be Jan. 5 with Montreal playing in Washington.
While Sakic’s retirement will highlight the Avs opening game, it will also be the debut of coach Joe Sacco. Todd Richards will mark his first night behind the Minnesota Wild bench Oct. 3 against Columbus.
Among some games of note, former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu will play Montreal for the first time as an Anaheim Duck on March 7.
Flyer Defenceman Chris Pronger will face his former Anaheim teammates for the first time when the Ducks play in Philadelphia Oct. 10.
New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur’s first appearance of the season will be his 1,000th NHL game. Patrick Roy is the only goaltender with more games with 1,029.