The new television landscape in Canada came into clearer focus Sunday when the NHL unveiled its 2014-15 schedule, exactly nine days after the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup championship.
Who says hockey has no real off-season anymore?
Under terms of the NHL’s new 12-year agreement with Rogers Communications, there will now be national broadcasts on three nights of the week – Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday – across nine different networks, including CBC, City, Sportsnet (East, Ontario, West, and Pacific), Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet 360 and FX Canada.
The NHL season opens Oct. 8 with an all-Canadian double-header, when the Montreal Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks travel to Calgary to play the Flames. In all, there will be 35 Wednesday night games, including nine all-Canadian match-ups and nine doubleheaders.
Also on opening night, two key U.S. matchups – the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings raising their second banner in three seasons against the visiting San Jose Sharks, the second game of an NBC Sports Network doubleheader that begins with a game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers.
Hockey Night in Canada makes its season debut the following Saturday, with six games involving all seven Canadian teams on opening night.
The greatest departure from tradition is the debut of Sunday Night Hockey, the newest national TV night on the NHL schedule. Sunday Night Hockey debuts Oct. 12 when the Maple Leafs visit the Stanley Cup finalist Rangers in New York.
For the upcoming season, there is one Winter Classic – Jan. 1 in Washington, where the Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks – but it is believed that a Feb. 21 date between the Kings and the Sharks will also be played outdoors in the Bay Area, after the NHL successfully pulled off an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium last January. The NHL is firming up the details of its outdoor schedule, though it is believed the number of games will be sharply reduced from the six that were on the schedule a year ago, Last year, the NHL flooded the market with outdoor games primarily for two reasons – to generate additional revenues coming out of a lockout that saw the cancellation of 34 games per team; and to draw attention back to the league before and after the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Three of the six outdoor games came just before the NHL took its Olympic break and two others came immediately afterward.
With no Olympics to bother with this year, the NHL All-Star Game returns to the schedule after a one-year hiatus, with Columbus hosting the 2015 event during a four-day between Jan. 22-26.
CBC’s traditional Hockey Day in Canada, featuring an all-Canadian tripleheader, will go Feb. 14. For the second consecutive season, all 30 teams will play a home-and-away series against every opponent, with the defending champion Kings touring Ontario in the second week of December, with stops in Ottawa (Dec. 11), Montreal (Dec. 12) and Toronto (Dec. 14).
The annual Hockey Hall Of Fame game will be played in Toronto Nov. 14, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in as the visitors.
The Canadiens and Ottawa Senators both start their seasons on the road, with Montreal’s home opener falling on Oct. 16 against the Boston Bruins, the team they eliminated in last year’s playoffs; while Ottawa gets underway the same night against the visiting Colorado Avalanche and coach Patrick Roy.
The Winnipeg Jets will open their fourth season back in the NHL with a three-game road trip, beginning with a visit to Jobing.com Arena to face the newly renamed Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 9. The Jets’ 2014-15 home opener is Oct. 17, against the Nashville Predators.
The latest instalment of the Battle of Alberta will kick off the Edmonton Oilers 2014-15 season, as they battle the Flames at Rexall Place on October 9th, the first of five meetings between the provincial rivals. The Canucks’ first home game of the season is Oct. 11 at Rogers Arena versus Edmonton.
NHL training camps open Sep. 18, with exhibition games scheduled to start just three days later.
The 1,230-game regular-season schedule will conclude Apr. 11, with all 30 clubs in action.