The Stanley Cup was awarded two weeks ago, but we’re already looking ahead to the 2021-22 NHL season.
On Thursday evening, the league revealed its 1,312 game regular-season schedule, which begins Oct. 12 and ends April 29. The schedule features an interesting twist. An Olympic break has been built in — for now. There is no deal in place at the moment between the NHL, IOC and IIHF to send players to Beijing next February. Talks are on-going, which is a good sign.
While we wait to see if there will be a February break, there are some other dates to look forward to on the NHL’s 2021-22 calendar.
Opening night doubleheader
• The season kicks off Oct. 12 with the Lightning raising their Cup banner before meeting the Penguins, and the Kraken making their NHL debut on the road against the Golden Knights.
Stanley Cup Final rematch
• The Lighting and Canadiens will play for the first time since the 2021 Stanley Cup Final on Dec. 7 at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Nights of Firsts
• Eleven days after playing their first game, the Kraken will host its first game at Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 23 versus the Canucks.
• After playing their first 13 games on the road, the Islanders will open their new home at UBS Arena on Nov. 20 against the Flames.
Taking it outdoors
• Postponed from 2020, the Winter Classic will be at Target Field in Minnesota and feature the Wild vs. the Blues on Jan. 1, 2022
• The Stadium Series will return and be hosted at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Feb. 26, 2022 with the Predators taking on the defending champion Lightning.
Olympic send-off at NHL All-Star Game?
• Should NHL players participate in the 2022 Olympics, this season’s All-Star Game will serve as a farewell to those players going. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will host the event, which will take place Feb. 4-5 if there is an agreement to participate in the Beijing Games. The Olympic break would be from Feb. 7-22.
There is a second schedule that has not been released that does not feature a break. We won’t see that one unless there is no Olympic deal.
From the NHL:
The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will retain full authority to decide not to participate should COVID-19 conditions worsen or otherwise pose a threat to the health and safety of NHL Players, or for any other reason that may warrant such decision. In the event NHL Players participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics, the NHL regular season will resume on Wednesday, Feb. 23. If, for whatever reason, there is no NHL Player participation in the Olympics, a revised Regular Season schedule will be released which, to the greatest extent possible, will adopt the dates and games reflected in the schedule contemplating Olympic participation.
An almost-Super Saturday
• The regular season will end on Fri. April 29 with 30 of the NHL’s 32 teams playing.
Banners hang forever
• The Cup champion Lightning will once again begin their season by raising a championship banner. With a full house inside AMALIE Arena, Tampa Bay will celebrate their second straight title before their game with the Penguins on Oct. 12.
• Delayed from 2021, the Bruins will honor Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree by retiring his No. 22 on Jan. 18, 2022 at TD Garden before their game with the Hurricanes.
• Chris Pronger’s No. 4 will be raised to the rafters inside Enterprise Center on a date yet to be announced by the Blues.
Hello, old friend!
• Duncan Keith will visit the Blackhawks at United Center as a member of the Oilers on March 3.
• The Predators will welcome Viktor Arvidsson and the Kings on Oct. 19.
• Mark Giordano returns to Calgary as a member of the Kraken on Dec. 23
• Pierre-Luc Dubois did not get a chance to play in Columbus following last season’s trade. He’ll get to hear what the Blue Jackets fans think of him on Nov. 24. The other side of that trade, Patrik Laine, will play in Winnipeg for the first time since the deal on March 25.
• Two-time Cup champion Matt Murray will play against the Penguins as a visitor for the first time on Jan. 20. Same goes for Patric Hornqvist, when the Panthers visit PPG Paints Arena on Nov. 11.
• Braden Holtby will get his video tribute and a nice ovation from Capitals fans when the Canucks head to D.C. on Jan. 16. That is, if he is still with Vancouver by then.
• Who knows how long Joe Thornton’s beard will be by the time the Maple Leafs head west to San Jose on Nov. 26.
Records ready to fall
• One season after passing Gordie Howe for the most regular-season games played ever, Patrick Marleau — if he returns — could make more history. He’s 19 games away from breaking Mark Messier’s record for total games (regular season and playoffs) played and could set the mark on Nov. 24 at home against the Senators.
• He doesn’t have a team yet after being bought by the Panthers, but wherever Keith Yandle lands he’ll have the chance to break Doug Jarvis’ Ironman streak should he play 45 consecutive games. Also with the chance to pass Jarvis this season is Marleau (55 games) and Phil Kessel (65).
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.