The event calendar for hockey fans is somewhat thinner so far this year with no NHL games on the immediate horizon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a slew of important on-ice dates for fans to keep in mind. What are the biggest hockey events that aren’t affected by the NHL lockout this season? That’s our focus in this week’s THN.com Top 10.
10. Hockey Hall Of Fame Game (Nov. 11)
When the Hall gathers at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for the annual oldtimer’s game, it could mark the only time you see former NHL stars in an NHL arena. Honored members Doug Gilmour and Bryan Trottier will captain the teams in this game and the four legends who are being honored – Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure and Adam Oates – will play as well. Expect a massive roar for the two former Leafs captains, who you’d have to imagine will be on the same side.
9. IIHF Women’s World Championship (Apr. 2-9)
With the 2014 Sochi Olympics rapidly approaching, this tournament – which will be held at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa – will provide a good glimpse of what’s to come. The defending-champion Canadians will be looking for their 11th world title.
8. Beanpot Tournament (Feb. 6 & 13)
The 61st edition of the annual four-team tournament (including Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern and Boston University) once again will take place at Boston’s TD Garden. Boston College is the defending champs, but with only 17 Beanpot titles, they’ve got a ways to go before challenging Boston University (29 tournament wins) for the all-time lead.
7. Frozen Four Championship (April 11 & 13)
Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center plays host to the NCAA men’s playoffs this year. Boston College has won three of the past five championships, but never posted back-to-back victories. (Denver was the last repeat champ in 2004 and 2005.)
6. KHL Playoff Final (Apr. 7-19)
The Kontinental League’s fifth season will culminate with a best-of-seven showdown. If you can’t wait until then, there’s an opportunity to watch two KHL teams face off in North America when Moscow Dynamo takes on SKA St. Petersburg twice (Jan. 19-20) at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
5. IIHF World Championship (May 3-19)
This year’s men’s world championship will be held in Stockholm, Sweden, and Helsinki, Finland. The Canadians lead the gold medal count among active nations with 24, but they’re second if you combine the totals of the former Soviet Union (22 golds) and Russia (four).
4. NHL Entry Draft (June 28-29)
Even if the NHL loses a full season, there will be a prospect draft. It currently is scheduled for New Jersey’s Prudential Center, but if you look at what happened during the labor war of 2005, the draft was moved to an Ottawa hotel. In any case, fans all around the planet will tune in to see which teams get a shot at consensus top picks Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones.
3. CHL Memorial Cup (May 17-26)
The Saskatoon Blades will host their first Canadian major junior playoffs since 1989. The Blades currently have the longest championship drought of any CHL team and never have won either a Memorial Cup or a Western League title.
2. AHL Playoffs
Should the NHL lose a full season, the American League playoffs (which will start shortly after the regular season concludes Apr. 21) will be the best professional post-season hockey available to North Americans. Can the Norfolk Admirals, who dominated the 2012 playoffs with a 15-3 record, defend their title?
1. IIHF World Junior Championship (Dec. 26-Jan. 5)
Virtually all of Canada usually tunes in over the winter holiday season to watch the world’s top junior players represent their countries – and this time, interest is likely to be at an all-time high. The games will be held in Ufa, Russia, and the hometown team is looking to improve on its silver-medal performance in 2012. However, the Canadians haven’t won gold for three years after reeling off five consecutive world titles.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.