The NHL released the schedule for the 2012-13 season on Saturday night, and there are many important dates for hockey fans to circle on their calendars.
Each team will play 48 games in a 99-day regular season, which will be a grueling sprint to the playoffs for the players and an exciting three months of hockey for fans.
Let's look at the key dates to remember for the new season. To view the full schedule for all 30 NHL teams, click here.
January 19: New Season Begins
The 2012-13 season will officially begin on Saturday, January 19 with three games scheduled for 3 p.m. ET, including the Los Angeles Kings raising their 2012 Stanley Cup banner before an exciting matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The league's opening day schedule also includes the Pittsburgh Penguins traveling on the road to play the Philadelphia Flyers, the Toronto Maple Leafs visiting the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers taking on the Boston Bruins.
There will be 13 games for fans to enjoy on the first day of the season. The Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers are the only teams that do not have a game on opening day.
February 9: Hockey Day in Canada
One date that did not change in the NHL's new 48-game schedule is Hockey Day in Canada on February 9.
All seven Canadian teams will in action on this day, and each game will be broadcast on CBC. Here are the matchups (via Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports):
Hockey Day in Canada is Feb. 9: Edm @ Det, 2 pm ET; Wpg @ Ott, 2 pm ET; Tor @ Mtl, 7 pm ET; Cgy @ Van, 10 pm ET.— Tim Wharnsby (@WharnsbyCBC) January 13, 2013
February 17: Hockey Day in America
There are three games scheduled as part of Hockey Day in America on February 17. All three matchups will be broadcast on NBC or the NBC Sports Network.
Here are the matchups:
- Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres
- Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks
- Detroit Red Wings at Minnesota Wild
April 3: Trade Deadline
The trade deadline is usually in February, but with the late start to the season, the final day to make trades before the summer will be April 3.
Last year's trade deadline was pretty quiet, but with teams having the option of buying out players in the summer, we could see a lot of trades on deadline day.
Teams could also make trades to shed salary so they can get under the $64.3 million salary cap ceiling for the 2013-14 season.
There are five games scheduled on trade deadline day.
April 27: Regular Season Ends
The regular season will end on April 27, and there are 13 games on the schedule, including nine matchups between division rivals that could impact the playoff race.
Here are the four best matchups on the season's final day:
- San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings
- Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers
- Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals
- Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues
Just three days after the regular season ends, the playoffs will begin.
April 29: NHL Draft Lottery
The NHL draft lottery will undergo some major changes this season. For the first time in the league's history, each of the 14 teams that fail to qualify for the playoffs will participate in the lottery.
Teams with the worst record will have the best chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick.
Since the the 2013 NHL draft is expected to be one of the deepest in years, this will be a very important lottery for teams who struggle this season.
April 30: 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Commence
The 2013 NHL playoffs will begin on April 30 and the final possible day that Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final can be played is June 28.
When the NHL last played a lockout-shortened season (1994-95), the New Jersey Devils swept the Detroit Red Wings as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference to win their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
The last two seasons following a lockout (1994-95 and 2005-06) have included some amazing playoff series with low seeds (the aforementioned Devils and the Edmonton Oilers as an eighth seed in 2005-06) advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.
June 30: 2013 NHL Draft
The 2013 NHL draft will take place on Sunday, June 30 at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
Instead of a normal two-day draft with the first round on one day and then rounds 2-7 the day after, all seven rounds will take place on the same day.
July 5: Free Agency Starts
Free agency usually starts off on July 1, which is also Canada Day. With free agency scheduled to begin on July 5, hockey fans will have a whole day to relax with family and friends and not have to spend their Canada Day holiday watching television to get the latest updates.
The free-agent class this summer should be very deep, with superstars such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jarome Iginla and Alexander Edler eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Depending on who teams decide to buy out in the summer, there could be even more stars hitting the free-agent market after July 5.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Columnist at Bleacher Report, follow him on Twitter.