NEW YORK/TORONTO -- The 2008-09 National Hockey League regular season opened Saturday when the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins met in Stockholm, Sweden and the New York Rangers took on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic in the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008. Following are facts, figures, notes and storylines from around the League about this season's quest for the Stanley Cup.
Division of Spoils
Of the six division titlists in 2007-08, only Detroit was a repeat winner. Of the six teams that won divisions in 2006-07, only Detroit and New Jersey had won the season before.
Over the past three seasons, 15 teams have won division titles (the maximum possible was 18) with no repeats in the Northeast, Southeast, Pacific or Northwest Divisions. Over the past four seasons, 18 teams (of a possible 24) have won division titles and the Northeast, Southeast and Pacific Divisions all have had four different champs.Come Here Often?
This season, for the first time since 2003-04, every NHL team will play at least one game against each of the other 29. The new schedule matrix has each club playing six games against its four division rivals (24 games), four against the 10 non-division clubs within its conference (40) and 18 inter-conference games – home-and-homes against three and one game each against the remaining 12 teams.
One more feature of the new schedule: Each club will visit every other club in the
New-to-the-NHL Bench Bosses
Nine teams made coaching changes during the offseason. Four turned to men who have never been head coaches in the NHL.
In Atlanta, John Anderson is coming off leading Chicago to the 2008 Calder Cup championship. In Florida, Peter DeBoer makes the jump from junior hockey, where he led Kitchener to the 2008 OHL title. In San Jose, Todd McLellan takes over as head coach after being an assistant on Mike Babcock’s 2008 Stanley Cup-winning Detroit staff. On Long Island, Scott Gordon tries to follow up guiding Providence to the AHL’s best record in 2007-08.
Bleu, Blanc et Rouge Centennial
The Montreal Canadiens, the most storied and successful franchise in the game’s history, will commemorate their 100th anniversary with season-long ceremonies and celebrations.
The first will take place at the home opener on Oct. 15, when the Canadiens unveil their Ring of Honor that celebrates the 44 players and 10 builders enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. On Oct. 20, fans will be treated to the first of 12 Centennial Jersey Nights that feature players wearing the first of six vintage sweaters.
On Oct. 28, the greatest coaches in Canadiens history will be honored on Builder’s Night. On Nov. 22, Patrick Roy’s No. 33 jersey will be retired. As part of the Original Six Salute, the Canadiens will play host to the New York Rangers on Dec. 4 and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 8.
Dec. 4 also will mark the dedication of Centennial Plaza, which will feature monuments to the Canadiens’ greatest legends. Throughout the month of December, the Canadiens Children’s Foundation will open the first community hockey rink in the Saint-Michel borough of Montreal.
A week of related festivities and events will culminate Jan. 25 with the 57th NHL All-Star Game at Bell Centre. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a concert honoring the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Apr. 2. And on June 26-27, Bell Centre will play host to the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.Busiest Night Of The Season
The season's busiest night occurs Saturday, Oct. 25, when, for the second time ever, all 30 NHL clubs will be in action. Among the many storylines that night: Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in their first meeting since last season's Conference Semifinal playoff series; San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle
faces his former teammates for the first time when the Sharks visit the Tampa Bay Lightning; NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin makes his first appearance in Dallas since his rookie season of 2005-06 when the Stars entertain the Washington Capitals; Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils meet in Philadelphia for the second of back-to-back games and the NHL's most historic rivalry resumes at United Center when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in the 698th all-time meeting of those clubs.New Coaches
John Anderson in Atlanta; Barry Melrose in Tampa Bay; Ron Wilson in Toronto; Tony Granato in Colorado; Peter DeBoer in Florida; Terry Murray in Los Angeles; Craig Hartsburg in Ottawa; Todd McLellan in San Jose; Scott Gordon on Long Island.Number Retirements/Players Honored
Oct. 9 – Vancouver honors the memory of Luc Bourdon. Oct. 16 – Detroit honors Alex Delvecchio. Oct. 18 – Detroit honors Ted Lindsay. Oct. 28 – Buffalo honors Dave Andreychuk. Nov. 12 – Chicago retires No. 3 for Pierre Pilote & Keith Magnuson. Nov. 22 – Canadiens retire No. 33 for Patrick Roy. Nov. 22 – Toronto raises Wendel Clark banner. Dec. 17 – Vancouver retires No. 16 for Trevor Linden. Dec. 28 – Washington retires No. 11 for Mike Gartner. Jan. 18 – Edmonton retires No. 9 for Glenn Anderson. Jan. 31 – Toronto raises Doug Gilmour banner. Feb. 3 – Rangers retire No. 9 for Adam Graves. Feb. 17 – Carolina retires No. 2 for Glen Wesley. Feb. 22 – Rangers honor Andy Bathgate & Harry Howell. April 1 – Blackhawks honor Glenn Hall.You Can Go Home Again
Oct. 12 – Rob Blake returns to Los Angeles with San Jose. Oct. 20 – Sean Avery returns to New York with Dallas. Oct. 24 – Nikolai Zherdev returns to Columbus with the Rangers. Oct. 25 – Dan Boyle
returns to Tampa Bay with San Jose. Nov. 1 – Erik Cole returns to Carolina with Edmonton. Nov. 10 – Olaf Kolzig returns to Washington with Tampa Bay. Dec. 2 – Coach Ron Wilson returns to San Jose with Toronto. Jan. 6 – Bryan McCabe returns to Toronto with Florida. Feb. 8 – Marian Hossa returns to Pittsburgh with Detroit.NHL Rule Changes for 2008-2009Added to Rule 76 - Face-offs:
When players are penalized at a stoppage of play so as to result in penalties being placed on the penalty time clock to one team, the ensuing face-off shall be conducted at one of the two face-off spots in the offending team’s end zone. There are only four exceptions to this application:
(i) when a penalty is assessed after the scoring of a goal - face-off at center ice;
(ii) when a penalty is assessed at the end (or start) of a period – face-off at center ice;
(iii) when the defending team is about to be penalized and the attacking players enter the attacking zone beyond the outer edge of the end zone face-off circle – face-off in the neutral zone;
(iv) when the team not being penalized ices the puck – face-off in the neutral zone outside the blue line of the team icing the puck.Added to Rule 81 - Icing:
Any contact between opposing players while pursuing the puck on an icing must be for the sole purpose of playing the puck and not for eliminating the opponent from playing the puck. Unnecessary or dangerous contact could result in penalties being assessed to the offending player.Added to Rule 85 - Puck Out of Bounds:
When the puck hits the goal frame, goal post or crossbar and goes out of play, regardless which team shot the puck, the ensuing face-off shall take place at one of the end zone face-off spots in the zone where the puck went out of play.
Also, to note:
No commercial time-out will be permitted at a stoppage of play following an icing, except when penalties are assessed that affect the on-ice strength of either team (which results in both teams being permitted to make a line change).NHL AnnouncementsNHL.com Re-Launches With Focus On Personalization, Video
The new NHL.com is a completely re-designed and re-programmed media portal that gives fans everywhere a personalized, all-access pass to their favorite NHL team and players. The new NHL.com fully leverages the League’s assets in digital content and video to deliver multiple layers of programming that deeply immerse fans in the NHL experience. The site now features the integration of Single Sign-On to enable fans to sign on once to NHL.com and have a relevant, personalized experience in every content area at NHL.com ? editorial, multimedia, images, product and service offerings, etc.NHL GameCenter and GameCenter Live
The centerpiece of the new NHL.com is NHL GameCenter™, the premier destination and a “second screen” that enables fans to experience live NHL games. Every night, for every NHL game, NHL GameCenter brings fans into the action with select video highlights, real-time stats, play-by-play tracking, in-game photos, audio feeds, social networking and much more. From NHL GameCenter, fans are just a click away from watching NHL action live online with NHL GameCenter Live™, the ultimate in live, streaming sports video. Combining the immersive experience of NHL GameCenter with TV-quality streaming video, NHL GameCenter Live will be available in October and enable fans to catch all of the excitement from live games around the NHL (blackout restrictions apply).NHL Partners with Yahoo! on Fantasy Hockey
The NHL is the first sports league to collaborate with Yahoo! Sports -- the leading online sports destination and fantasy game provider -- to develop a co-branded fantasy sports game. It is the first time a major fantasy sports provider has integrated licensed player footage into its game, and the content will be offered exclusively on Yahoo! Sports. NHL fans can access the footage to track their players’ performances, scout trades, and research players for their rosters. The official fantasy hockey game also will include all the valuable features for which Yahoo! Sports is known, such as integration of NHL stats and player data, as well as reliability. The game is available -- and free of charge -- at http://hockey.fantasysports.yahoo.com. NHL video will be integrated this season.19 NHL Teams Unveil New Third Jerseys
A third jersey celebrates a club’s brand by extending its distinct visual style and identity. The alternate uniform presents an opportunity for the club to creatively play with the color palette and logo, or to pay tribute to its history by presenting vintage looks from years past. Buffalo, Carolina and St. Louis have unveiled their new jerseys and 16 more will follow.