Hot off the heels of the Chicago Blackhawks’ thrilling victory over the Philadephia Flyers in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals, the NHL has released its 2010-2011 playoff schedule.
The season will begin on October 7th with a traditional rivalry as Canadian teams Toronto and Montreal will square off in Toronto. The rivalry is the oldest in the NHL and is usually used as a way to create interest in the beginning section of the season, when teams are often still finalizing their line-ups. Another Canadian rivalry will see the the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers renewing the Battle of Alberta in Edmonton.
Defending Stanley Cup winners will get the chance to open their season on October 9 against the Detroit Red Wings, and with a strong core of young players still intact from their winning last season, the Hawks will have a very good chance of winning the Cup again. The October 9 game will also give them a chance to raise their Stanley Cup winning banner in front of a home crowd.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will finally get to inaugurate their long awaited new arena when they open their season against Pennsylvania rivals and 2010 Stanley Cup runners up the Philadelphia Flyers when they host them on the opening night of the year. The Penguins will be playing in the CONCOL Energy Centre after having played for decades in the now-oldest arena in the NHL, the Mellon Arena, better known as the Igloo. That team will also look to bounce back from a second round upset at the hands of the Canadiens to begin their 2011 Cup run.
NHL goes on overseas jaunt
For the fourth year in a row, the NHL will attempt to expand its international profile by having games played overseas. The NHL has played games in far off places in Europe and even Japan in recent years, and this year will be no different as six games will occur across Eastern Europe. The six games outside of North America sets a record for the NHL’s overseas expansion efforts.
The Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild will be playing a set of two games in Helsinki on October 7th and 8th. Meanwhile Sweden’s capitol will see the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks square off twice, as the two teams play in Stockholm on October 8th and 9th. Another stalwart hockey nation, the Czech Republic will get to host two games in Prague on October 9th and 10th as the Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes square off.
While all the regular season overseas’ games are taking place in staunch hockey nations, the Boston Bruins will be travelling to Northern Ireland to take on the Belfast Giants, an all-star team made up of the best players from the U.K Elite League in an attempt to drum up interest for the otherwise relatively low-profile pre-season games for each team.
NHL continues Outdoor Classic
Along with games in faraway places, the NHL will be continuing another recent tradition with the Winter Classic, which takes place outdoors. The first took place in 2003 with the Montreal Canadiens taking on the Edmonton Oilers. The games are known for their often freezing temperatures and huge attendances. The past three years the games have all happened in the U.S, and this year Heinz Field in Pittsburgh will host the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Washington Capitals. Fans will get to see the two best known players in the sport, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin square off. Additionally, for the first time the NHL will host a second outdoor game in the same year, with the Calgary Flames hosting the Canadiens in February.