NHL reveals 2021-22 schedule with realigned divisions, Seattle Kraken debut
The NHL released its schedule for the 2021-22 regular season on Thursday evening, which includes realigned divisions, a rebalanced schedule and a longer Olympic break if the league’s players compete in the Beijing 2022 Games.
The schedule posted on SportsCenter is bringing the NHL back to a full regular season of 82 games after 56 games in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening night is Tuesday October 12th when the Pittsburgh Penguins will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning and hoist their Stanley Cup championship banner. The Seattle Kraken expansion will also play their first game while they travel to Las Vegas to take on the league’s other youngest expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Both games are part of a double-header simulcast on the opening night on ESPN and ESPN +.
The regular season of 1,312 games ends on April 29, when 30 of the league’s 32 teams will be in action.
The schedule has a significant hiatus beginning February 3, which includes both the NHL All-Star Weekend and an Olympic hiatus. The All-Star Weekend takes place February 4-5 in Las Vegas. The Olympic break begins on February 7th and lasts until February 22nd.
The NHL agreed in its collective agreement with the players last summer to work towards a return to the Olympics. Negotiations are ongoing with the NHLPA and the International Ice Hockey Federation on outstanding issues, including adequate COVID-19 insurance for NHL players in Beijing. If either the NHL or the NHLPA decide not to participate in the Olympics, a revised regular season schedule will be posted, attempting to incorporate the dates and games into the current schedule.
Gone are last season’s temporary divisions, including the All-Canadian North Division, as the league’s teams return to the alignment they had in the 2019-20 season: the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions in the Eastern Conference and the Central and Pacific Divisions in the Western Conference.
The Kraken, the NHL’s 32nd franchise, will join the Pacific Division. The Arizona Coyotes move to the Central Division starting next season.
The addition of the Kraken changed the NHL schedule. Each team plays a home and an away game against the opponents of the other conference; three games against the teams of the other league at their conference; and either four games or three games against the teams within their own division.
The NHL chose not to host multi-game homestands for teams against the same opponent in the same city, which was an important part of the 2020-21 schedule and was popular with players.
“I know the coaches enjoyed it and the players had some time to do it. It gets old in some ways when you have to do a season of it. There was a small appetite to try more with it, but the planners were fine in a difficult situation, “said Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. “I think it was a lot easier when we were in a COVID situation and there were no construction issues at the time. There are teams with multiple tenants, concerts, all the wonderful things we missed came into play when they tried to put it into practice [this season]. “
Key dates in the 2021-22 NHL schedule include:
Saturday October 23: The Kraken play their first home game at the Climate Pledge Arena against their geographic rival, the Vancouver Canucks.
Saturday, November 20: After the first 13 away games at the start of the season, the New York Islanders return home to open the new UBS Arena against the Calgary Flames.
Tuesday December 7th: The Montreal Canadiens receive the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final.
Saturday January 1: The 2022 Winter Classic takes place at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, as the Wild host the St. Louis Blues in a game from last season.
Saturday, February 26: The Lightning becomes the 27th NHL team to compete in an outdoor game as it takes on the Nashville Predators in a Stadium Series game at Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans.
Starting in the 2021-22 season, ESPN + and Hulu will host 75 exclusive, national NHL game broadcasts, and ESPN + will be the exclusive home to the NHL’s non-commercial streaming package, with more than 1,000 games available for fans to stream as part of an ESPN + subscription.