Hockey is officially back.
The NHL and the NHL Players Association have ratified the brand new collective bargaining agreement which will expire in ten years. Earlier this evening, the league released the 48-game schedule that will start with 13 games on January 19th and will conclude on April 27th.
A couple of quick notes on the revised schedules:
- Training camps are scheduled to begin on Sunday
- Each team will play all 48 games against their own conference.
- Teams will play 18 games inside their division compared to 24 games in an 82-game season.
With that being said, here is a breakdown of the Blackhawks' 2013 schedule.
The Blackhawks start their season with a Saturday afternoon banner ceremony against the defending champions in Los Angeles. The Hawks will then fly to Phoenix for a Sunday night matchup against the team that knocked them out in the first round of the playoffs, this time televised on NBC Sports Network. The Blackhawks' home opener is on January 22nd against the Blues. The Hawks then go back on the road for two more against Dallas and Columbus before coming home to play arch-rival Detroit on the 27th. The Hawks close out the month on the road against Minnesota.
February starts off with five straight games on the road. The first of of those five road games is against the hated Vancouver Canucks. The Blackhawks also play Calgary, San Jose, Phoenix and division rival Nashville to close out the road trip. The Hawks then begin a seven-game homestand against Anaheim. The Hawks also host Vancouver, San Jose (twice) and Los Angeles. The Hawks finish February back on the road against St. Louis.
The month of March is a busy one for the Blackhawks. The Hawks start the month on the road against Columbus then head to Detroit for their first of two NBC games at the Joe Louis Arena. The Blackhawks also have a home-and-home series with Colorado, with each team getting a home game with a travel day in between. The Hawks have a home game against Edmonton before going on a four game road trip. The Hawks conclude March with three home games and their second road game against Detroit.
April is the strangest month of the season. The Hawks have eight games at home and six on the road. The Blackhawks play 10 of their 14 games against playoff teams from last season, including seven against Nashville and St. Louis. The Blackhawks also play against Minnesota, Vancouver, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix. The Blackhawks conclude the season with a road game against the Blues.
The main problem the Blackhawks must try to avoid is getting off to a slow start. The Hawks play a lot of early season games against playoff contenders and must play six straight on the road starting at the end of January.
The Blackhawks season could be defined by the first four weeks of the season. If Joel Quenneville's group can get off to a hot start, the Blackhawks could be Stanley Cup contenders. If they stumble out of the gates, they could put themselves in a hole too deep to dig themselves out of.