The NHL’s 2016-17 campaign ended only 11 days ago but it’s never too early to talk about next season.
One day after the league released the home openers for all 31 teams, the full 2017-18 schedule is out with the regular season beginning Oct. 4 and ending on April 7.
As with every schedule release, there are some dates on the calendar that stand out more than the rest.
Here are some dates of note on the 2016-17 NHL schedule.
Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks, Sept. 21-23, 2017
Yeah, it’s preseason, but the NHL China Games will serve as the league’s entry into a market they really want to tap. With the 2022 Olympics hosted by Beijing, this is the start of a relationship that could see the league and players come together and return to participating in the Games. Fingers crossed.
St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins, Oct. 4, 2017
For the second straight season the Penguins will raise a championship banner to the rafters of PPG Arena. It’ll be momentous occasion, as this hasn’t happened in nearly 20 years since the Detroit Red Wings last went back-to-back in 1997-98. Other games on Opening Night include the Toronto Maple Leafs at Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers, and the Philadelphia Flyers at San Jose Sharks.
Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars, Oct. 6, 2017
The Golden Knights will start their NHL experience on the road for two games at Dallas and at Arizona before hosting the Coyotes for their first-ever regular season game at T-Mobile Arena. This is the league’s first expansion entry since the 2000-01 season, which saw the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild bring the total number of teams up to 30. After a long process, they have players and jerseys, now it’s time to drop the puck.
Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, Oct. 7, 2017
Ken Hitchcock’s first regular season game back behind the Stars’ bench will take place against the team he coached for the last six seasons. They’ll be pretty reacquainted by this time seeing a show this meeting comes after the two sides play twice during the preseason. What will the video tribute look like?
Colorado Avalanche vs. Ottawa Senators, Nov. 10-11, 2017
These will be the first regular season games in Europe since 2011 and Swedish fans will be pleased that they will feature fellow countrymen like Erik Karlsson and Stockholm native Gabriel Landeskog. This will be the sixth time the NHL has played regular season games in Europe, with the Ericsson Globe a regular host of those matchups.
Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators, Dec. 16, 2017
It was a few years in the making, but the Senators will finally host their own outdoor game at Landsdowne park. They previously participated in the 2014 Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver against the Canucks; now they’ll be part of the NHL 100 Classic, which will help celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday and the anniversary of the league’s first game on Dec. 19, 1917.
New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres, Jan. 1, 2018
With the Winter Classic celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the Sabres, who took part in the first edition against the Penguins, will serve as the home team at CitiField against the Rangers. After some down years in the ratings, NBC has to happy with this matchup given the strengths of each television market. Oh, yeah, and then there’s the game where we’ll see lots of Henrik Lundqvist and Jack Eichel. There ya go.
2018 NHL All-Star Game, Jan. 27-28, 2018
Once the NHL officially announced All-Star Weekend in Tampa was going to take place in 2018, it was the final blow to any hope of Olympic participation. The league will once again go with the 3-on-3-tournament format and it’ll be interesting to see how they go about jazzing up the weekend. Will we see any tweaks to the Skills Competition?
Vegas Golden Knights at Pittsburgh Penguins, Feb. 6, 2018
Assuming George McPhee doesn’t flip him, this will be the first time that Marc-Andre Fleury will come to Pittsburgh as a visiting player. The first overall pick in the 2003 draft helped the Penguins win three Stanley Cups during his tenure. Despite some bumps along the way, he left the franchise as a beloved citizen. He spent his final days as a member of the team funding the construction of a playground and doing one final public appearance to say goodbye to fans. It’s going to be an emotional ovation on that Tuesday night.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals, March 3, 2018
After meeting in an exciting first-round series, the Leafs and Caps will see one another outside next season. A game at West Point couldn’t be worked out for the ’17-18 season, so Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. will play host to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner against Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. This is just the start of the NHL’s plan to hold outdoor games at U.S. Service Academies over the next several years.
Also of note: Auston vs. Patrik as the Winnipeg Jets welcome the Leafs for their home opener (Oct. 4); Detroit opens Little Caesar’s Arena vs. the Minnesota Wild (Oct. 5); the Stanley Cup rematch between the Nashville Predators and Penguins (Oct. 7); The returns of Jonathan Drouin (Dec. 28) and Ben Bishop (Nov. 16) to Tampa; the battle of the likely top two picks, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier, when the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers face-off (Jan. 13); Mike Smith and the Calgary Flames visiting the Coyotes (Feb. 22); Scott Darling goes back to Chicago (March 8).
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