The 2021-22 NHL season officially opens on Tuesday, Oct. 12, with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena and the home club raising its third banner in franchise history.
Immediately following Bolts-Pens, the Seattle Kraken will make their NHL debut with a visit to the Vegas Golden Knights to close out an opening-night doubleheader. The matchup will put the NHL's newest team against a Vegas club that joined the league in 2017.
All of it sets up a historic opening week for the league as NHL games make their Turner Sports debut and return to ESPN for the first time since 2004. The league's two new broadcast partners are taking over for NBC. It's also a return to a full 82-game schedule after the pandemic limited the 2019-20 season to 71 regular-season games followed by 56 games last year.
NHL Public Relations @PR_NHL
The 2021-22 @NHL season will open on Oct. 12th with the @TBLightning raising their #StanleyCup banner followed by the debut of the @SeattleKraken in Vegas. Day 2 has a four-game slate with a pair of all-Canadian matchups. Details: https://t.co/JIltC7RMxT https://t.co/hYXdhj0xtL
TNT will open up its NHL coverage on Wednesday, Oct. 13, with a doubleheader featuring the New York Rangers at the Washington Capitals, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks at the Colorado Avalanche.
TNT will also broadcast two outdoor games over the course of the season. The 2022 NHL Winter Classic will be shown live from Target Field in Minneapolis when the Wild host the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 1. On Feb. 26, the NHL Stadium Series lands in Tennessee with the Nashville Predators hosting the Lightning at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at some of the bigger dates that stand out on this year's calendar.
NHL 2021-22 Key Schedule Dates
Oct. 23: Seattle Kraken home opener vs. Vancouver Canucks
Nov. 20: New York Islanders' first game at UBS Arena vs. Calgary Flames
Dec. 7: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at Bell Centre (Stanley Cup Final rematch)
Feb. 4-5: NHL All-Star Weekend at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas
Feb. 7-22: Olympic break
April 29: Regular season ends
The league is also set to see a number of classic rivalries resume after last season's conference realignment to best navigate pandemic restrictions. Among the noteworthy dates back on the league schedule are:
- Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings: Oct. 24 (at CHI), Jan. 26 (at DET)
- Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: Oct. 30 (at TOR), Jan. 29 (at DET), Feb. 26 (at TOR), Apr. 26 (at DET)
- Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins: Nov. 6 (at TOR), Mar. 29 (at BOS), Apr. 29 (at TOR)
- Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins: Nov. 14 (at BOS), Dec. 18 (at MON), Jan. 12 (at MON), Mar. 21 (at BOS)
- Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Jan. 21 (at CHI), Jan. 22 (at MIN), Feb. 2 (at CHI), Mar. 19 (at MIN)
- St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Oct. 30 (at STL), Nov. 26 (at CHI), Jan. 30 (at STL), Feb. 27 (at CHI)
- Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Oct. 16 (at WAS), Nov. 1 (at TB), Apr. 6 (at WAS)
- New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens: Oct. 16 (at MON), Nov. 16 (at NYR), Dec. 22 (at NYR)
The NHL is not sticking with the baseball-style scheduling introduced last year, which saw teams play consecutive games against the same opponent. The adjustment cut down on travel and helped keep players fresher during the season. It also allowed for more intense games, as animosity between teams ramped up over the course of two- to three-game series.
Emily Kaplan @emilymkaplan
I’m told are placeholders on the NHL schedule for potential international games. Also a placeholder for the Heritage Classic, which looks like it will be in a Canadian city that’s not Edmonton. Me & @Buccigross are on @SportsCenter this hour w/ more info + full schedule release!
That will immediately impact the New York Islanders, who begin the season with a 13-game, cross-country road trip from Oct. 14 to Nov. 16 before the club finally gets to open the brand new UBS Arena.
It remains unclear if the NHL will strike a deal that allows pros to break for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league has contingencies for both scenarios.
Per the NHL release:
"Talks remain ongoing. Subject to reaching agreement with the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation on all outstanding issues, including appropriate COVID-19 insurance for NHL Players, the League has agreed, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, to pause from Feb. 7-22, 2022 to accommodate NHL Player participation in the Olympic Games. 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."
Either way, the 2021-22 NHL season will provide a mix of familiar matchups and new viewing experiences as ESPN and TNT take over the national broadcast rights for the next seven years.