The National Hockey League opens its 2005-06 regular season Wednesday with 15 games, 30 clubs in action, dozens of storylines and 600 players in uniform in front of an expected quarter-million fans at sold-out arenas, marking the busiest playing date in the League's 88-year history. NHL teams had combined to play as many as 14 games on nine occasions, the most recent of which was Nov. 1, 2003.
It also marks the first time that all NHL clubs are in action on the schedule's opening night since 1928-29, when 10 clubs were featured. The last time all clubs in a major pro sports league played on the opening date of the schedule was in 1969, when the National Football League kicked off with all 16 NFL clubs and 10 AFL clubs participating.
With all of Wednesday's games either at or near a sellout, the NHL could break its single-date attendance record of 259,873, set in 14 games on Feb. 15, 2003.
OLN, the exclusive U.S. cable partner of the NHL, begins its 58-game schedule Wednesday when the Philadelphia Flyers host Atlantic Division rival New York Rangers at 7 p.m., ET.
In a network first, Canadian cable rightsholder TSN will televise four games - featuring five Canadian teams - on Wednesday, using a split feed. Coverage begins with the Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild at 8 p.m., ET, followed by the Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers (10 p.m., ET) and Phoenix Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks (10:30 p.m., ET).
Elsewhere, Commissioner Gary Bettman will be in Tampa Bay as the defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning raise their 2004 championship banner prior to their game with the Carolina Hurricanes; Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and the new-look Pittsburgh Penguins face goaltender Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils; the Montreal Canadiens visit the Boston Bruins in the 670th regular-season meeting of these legendary rivals; the Nashville Predators' star free agent, Paul Kariya, makes his home debut versus the San Jose Sharks; defenseman Scott Niedermayer (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim) and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (Chicago Blackhawks) make their new club debuts in the Windy City; the Detroit Red Wings, with new head coach Mike Babcock, host the St. Louis Blues; New York Islanders free agents Miroslav Satan and Alexei Zhitnik visit their former club, the Buffalo Sabres; the Washington Capitals host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the long-awaited NHL debut of the first overall draft pick in 2004, Alexander Ovechkin; wing Marian Hossa makes his first appearance with the Atlanta Thrashers as they face goaltender Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers; and Dallas Stars center Mike Modano will set a franchise record by skating in his 17th season with the club as it hosts the Los Angeles Kings.
Wednesday also marks the start of a joint program by the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association to auction game-worn opening-night jerseys to benefit the American Red Cross in its assistance to those affected by the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
For the first period of each team's home opener, all players will wear a jersey bearing a special patch confirming the Clubs' and players'commitment to the people and communities impacted. The jerseys will be collected and then auctioned by League auction partner Truition Inc., on NHL.com, all NHL member Club websites, and NHLPA.com