NEW YORK – The Pittsburgh Penguins will open their new home, the CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday, Oct. 7, and the Chicago Blackhawks will raise a Stanley Cup championship banner to the United Center ceiling two nights later to highlight the inaugural weekend of the 2010-11 National Hockey League regular season.
The Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers will provide the opposition for Pittsburgh's first regular-season game in its new arena, which seats 18,087, while the Detroit Red Wings and Blackhawks will play for the 710th time, the League's most often-contested rivalry.
Opening night Oct. 7 also features NHL Face-Off, the League's annual North American launch event. Prior to the contest in which the Montreal Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs, a hockey and entertainment festival in Toronto will give fans the opportunity to salute the start of the season. Also that night, the Blackhawks visit the Avalanche in Colorado and the "Battle of Alberta" resumes in Edmonton with the Calgary Flames visiting the Oilers.
Following a 2009-10 campaign that generated the League's highest playoff TV ratings in 36 years, fostered dramatic increases across a variety of digital platforms and marked a fourth consecutive season of business growth, the first weekend of the 1,230-game 2010-11 schedule features games on two continents and five countries. In addition to contests in the United States and Canada, a record six teams – the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, Finland; the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks in Stockholm, Sweden, and the Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes in Prague, Czech Republic – begin their regular-season schedules in Europe by participating in the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere games. The Compuware NHL Premiere Games continue through Sunday, Oct. 10th.
CONSOL Energy Center will be one of two new venues this season for the Penguins, who from their inception in 1967 through last season had played in Mellon Arena. On New Year's Day, they will host the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic -- the event Forbes Magazine has called the best new sporting event in the last decade. The 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be the second meeting in 10 days between the staunch rivals; the clubs open their contentious season series at Washington's Verizon Center on Thursday, Dec. 23.
Later in January, the spotlight will shine on Raleigh, N.C., for the renewal of NHL All-Star Weekend. The League schedule will pause from Jan. 27-Feb. 1 as the Hurricanes' home venue hosts the All-Star festivities for the first time ever.
Under the NHL scheduling matrix, each team plays six games against each team in its division (24 games), four games against the non-division teams within its conference (40 games) plus 18 non-conference games – including at least one game against each club in the other conference (15 games) and three other games against select teams.
Season-Opening Night: Thursday, October 7 – Carolina @ Minnesota in 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere-Helsinki; Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh in the official opener at CONSOL Energy Center; Montreal @ Toronto; Chicago @ Colorado, Calgary @ Edmonton.
"Home" Teams in 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Games: Helsinki – Minnesota Oct. 7, Carolina Oct. 8; Stockholm – San Jose Oct. 8, Columbus Oct. 9; Prague – Boston Oct. 9, Phoenix Oct. 10.
Hall of Fame Game: Buffalo @ Toronto, Saturday, Nov. 6.
All-Star Break: Jan. 27-Feb. 1.
Hockey Day In Canada: Feb. 12 – Ottawa @ Edmonton, Toronto @ Montreal, Calgary @ Vancouver.
Hockey Day In America: Feb. 20 – Washington @ Buffalo; Philadelphia @ NY Rangers; Pittsburgh @ Chicago, Detroit @ Minnesota.
Meeting of 2010 Stanley Cup Finalists: Philadelphia @ Chicago – Sunday, Jan. 23.
Meeting of the past two Stanley Cup champions: Pittsburgh @ Chicago, Sunday, Feb. 20, 3 p.m.
Busiest Day: Saturday, Oct. 30. 14 games.
Regular Season Concludes: April 10, 2011.
Stanley Cup Playoffs begin: April 13, 2011.
SCHEDULE NOTES: John MacLean makes his regular-season debut as the Devils' coach and Jason Arnott marks his return to the club Oct. 8 when New Jersey hosts Dallas . . . Scott Arniel makes his regular-season debut as the Blue Jackets' coach against San Jose in Stockholm Oct. 8 and makes his regular-season North America debut Friday, Oct. 15, against the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks . . . Guy Boucher makes his regular-season debut as head coach of the Lightning when Tampa Bay hosts Atlanta Saturday, Oct. 9 . . . GM Steve Yzerman and the Lightning are home to the Detroit Red Wings, Yzerman's long-time former team, Thursday, Feb. 17 . . . Tampa Bay owns the season's longest homestand, 12 games from Jan. 23-Feb. 25, while Los Angeles faces the season's longest road trip, 10 games from Feb. 1-23 . . . The cross-state rivalry between Florida and Tampa Bay gets underway Oct. 16 when the Lightning provide the opposition for the Panthers' home opener. The teams are led by new general managers – Yzerman in Tampa and Dale Tallon in Florida . . . The St. Louis Blues and former Canadiens G Jaroslav Halak host Montreal Thursday, March 10 . . . The Ottawa Senators play their concluding 26 regular-season games against Eastern Conference opponents . . . The Los Angeles Kings play their concluding 23 games against Western Conference, including the last five against Pacific Division opponents . . . The Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes both play their concluding 20 games against Western Conference opponents. . . Carolina makes the latest North American home debut – October 27 against Washington.