And, beginning with a special 10 a.m.-noon ET edition of NHL Live! through the wrap-up of NHL Network's On The Fly at 2 a.m. ET Sunday morning, the League's media assets will provide end boards-to-end boards coverage of the 15 games that will comprise more than 15 hours of live programming.
Thirty clubs will contest 15 games in 15 cities in four countries on two continents across 10 time zones Saturday. Nearly half the League (14 clubs) will play season openers. A total of 600 players, who were born in 25 countries, will suit up. The games will be overseen by 60 officials -- 30 referees and 30 linesmen. Virtually the entire League on-ice officiating staff will be working, as just five referees and five linesmen have the day off.
From the noon ET puck drop between the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers in Helsinki, Finland, until the final buzzer of the Phoenix Coyotes-Los Angeles Kings game more than 5,500 miles away at STAPLES Center, there will be NHL games in action somewhere on the globe almost continuously for approximately 13 hours. During one dizzying stretch – beginning at approximately 8:10 p.m. ET – nine NHL games will be in progress simultaneously.
NHL Radio's NHL Live!, which normally can be heard and seen from noon-2 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, will get the coverage started with a special edition. Hosts Don La Greca and special guest analyst E.J. Hradek of ESPN the Magazine will set up the day by talking to players, coaches, reporters and broadcasters from many of the 15 host cities. This special edition of NHL Live! will be simulcast on NHL Network and streamed live on NHL.com.
In the United States, NHL Network then will broadcast an unprecedented quadruple-header of games. The Blackhawks and Panthers are up first in the second game of their 2009 Compuware/NHL Helsinki series. At 3 p.m. ET, the action moves to Sweden, where the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings contest the back end of their two-game 2009 Compuware/NHL Stockholm set. Following a 6 p.m. ET edition of On The Fly with Brian Duff and Gary Green, NHL Network will broadcast the Toronto-Washington game from Verizon Center. Immediately after that game's conclusion, the coverage will shift to Edmonton, where the Oilers will take on the Calgary Flames in the latest Battle of Alberta.
Hockey Night in Canada on CBC will broadcast a triple-header to Canadian viewers, providing national coverage of the Detroit-St. Louis game from Stockholm at 3 p.m., ET; regional coverage of Toronto-Washington, Montreal-Buffalo and Ottawa-New York Rangers at 7 p.m. and coast-to-coast coverage of Calgary-Edmonton at 10 p.m., ET. TSN2 will broadcast the Chicago-Florida clash from Helsinki at noon, ET, while RDS will telecast the Montreal-Buffalo game to French-language viewers.
All the while, NHL.com will provide comprehensive reporting on every game and all the day's news. The League's Web site will deploy 15 writers to provide on-site coverage of all 15 matches through game stories, features and blogs. NHL.com also will be the place to get the first and official word from NHL Hockey Operations in Toronto whenever a play requires video review.
In the social media realm, the NHL is running its first-ever Twitter fan contest around the day, inviting followers of the League's official Twitter account (@NHL) to participate in #NHLPick15. The contest, which is open to adult residents of Canada and the U.S., challenges fans to predict the winning team in all 15 games played Saturday. The grand prize is a trip for two to any regular-season game in 2009-10, excluding the 2010 NHL Winter Classic. Ten other entrants will be selected at random to receive a free season of NHL GameCenter Live, the online service that delivers live out-of-market game broadcasts with streaming TV-quality video. Complete rules and regulations are available at http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=57292.
Here's a capsule look at the games.
Noon, ET: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Florida Panthers (at Helsinki, Finland) -- The Blackhawks and Panthers conclude their two-game Compuware/NHL Premiere 2009 series at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki. Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell will enjoy something of a home-ice advantage, having played a full season in Finland with Hartwall-based Jokerit in 2004-05.
3 p.m., ET: Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues (at Stockholm, Sweden) -- The Red Wings and Blues conclude their two-game Compuware/NHL Premiere 2009 series at the Globe Arena in Stockholm. Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom and several Swedish-born teammates face another Swedish export in NHL All-Rookie forward Patrik Berglund and young Blues stars defenseman Erik Johnson and forward T.J. Oshie.
3 p.m., ET: Vancouver Canucks at Colorado Avalanche -- The Canucks face another division rival on the road after opening the season Thursday at Calgary. The defending Northwest champs will present a tough test for the Avalanche, who gave rookie head coach Joe Sacco his first career victory on opening night against San Jose.
7 p.m., ET: Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres -- Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and new head coach Jacques Martin lead the revamped Canadiens. Lindy Ruff begins his 13th straight season as Sabres head coach, the longest tenure of any coach in the NHL. This is the second straight season Buffalo will open by playing Montreal.
7 p.m., ET: Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils -- Jacques Lemaire returns to the Devils' bench he ran from 1993-94 through 1997-98, winning the '95 Stanley Cup. Martin Brodeur is expected to make his 15th straight season-opening start in goal, breaking the NHL record he shares with Terry Sawchuk and Patrick Roy. The Devils are 17-5-4 in season openers. Chris Pronger plays his first divisional game for the Flyers, who open the season Friday at Carolina.
7 p.m., ET: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders -- John Tavares, the first-overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, is expected to make his NHL debut for the Islanders against Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, the first-overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. The Isles have won their past four home openers.
7 p.m., ET: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers -- Marian Gaborik makes his Madison Square Garden debut as a Ranger with John Tortorella coaching his first home opener for the Broadway Blueshirts. Alex Kovalev, a Cup-winner with the Rangers, plays his first game for the Senators.
7 p.m., ET: Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals -- Having added Mike Knuble to an otherwise intact group, the Caps seek to continue the steady climb that has taken them from out of the playoffs to the first round to the second round in the past three seasons. Defensemen Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and Garnet Exelby – all acquired over the summer – anchor the building Leafs, who will try to snap a four-season playoff drought.
7 p.m., ET: Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets -- The Blue Jackets return to Nationwide Arena for the first time since playing the first playoff games in franchise history there last April. Bolstered by the signing of RW Martin Havlat, Minnesota plays its first-ever game with a coach other than Jacques Lemaire – Todd Richards.
8 p.m., ET: Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars -- The Predators and Stars will be making their season debut. The Stars will play their first game under new head coach Marc Crawford, while captain Brenden Morrow could suit up for the club for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury Nov. 20.
10 p.m., ET: Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers -- All eyes will be on Flames defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, an Edmonton native who will be competing in his first installment of the 'Battle of Alberta.' The game also marks the debut of head coach Pat Quinn behind the Oilers bench.
10 p.m., ET: San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks -- This is the season opener for the Ducks and a rematch of last season's first-round playoff series, the first all-California postseason clash in 30 years. The Sharks' attack has been sharpened with the addition of Dany Heatley, while the Ducks' Finnish stars Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will line up as teammates for the first time in the NHL.
10:30 p.m., ET: Phoenix Coyotes at Los Angeles Kings -- The Coyotes, under new head coach Dave Tippett, face a Kings squad bolstered by the off-season acquisition of defenseman Rob Scuderi and forward Ryan Smyth in the season opener for both clubs.
Note: All 30 NHL teams again will be in action on the same day on Saturday, Oct. 24.