For those fans who believed their country wouldn’t be represented by NHL players at the 2014 Olympics can be relieved to know that the NHL will take a break in February so the best players can compete in the Olympics. In other news, the league also released the schedule for the 2013-14 season in addition to division names after realignment.
First things first with the Olympics. For the fifth time, the NHL will send players to the Winter Olympics. There will be no games played from February 9 and return to play February 26. That’s a shorter break than the one for the KHL, which begins on Jan. 30. There was a deal worked out between the NHL, IIHF, and the NHLPA. This deal also affected the officials, as the NHL will send seven referees and six linesmen to be integrated with IIHF officiating crews for the games. Unlike the Vancouver games, the Sochi hockey tournament will take place on the wider Olympic-sized ice sheet. This isn’t really news considering the Shayba Arena and Bolshoy Ice Dome has already been built for quite some time.
For those who don’t remember. The United States is in Group A with Russia, Slovenia and Slovakia. Canada is in Group B with Austria, Finland and Norway. Group C is consisted of Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland and Latvia. The competition will begin Wednesday, February 12.
Schedule and Division Names Announced
We’ve known about realignment for quite a while. We knew the division breakdown, but we didn’t know what the names of such divisions would be. Many hockey fans would have loved for the league to return to classic builder names such as Adams, Norris, and Patrick. But because Gary Bettman came from the geographically-named NBA, he eventually won out and didn’t return to people-named divisions. Gone are the Northwest, Northeast and Southeast divisions. Say hello to the oddly-named Metropolitan division. I understand where Bettman came up with the name, as most of the teams in the division (sans Carolina) are located in the most densely populated areas of the country around New York, Philadelphia and Washington. But I’m sure there will be many jokes tied to the division name (Puck Daddy already called dibs on calling it the Metrosexual division).
The 2013-14 schedule was also announced. The season will begin October 1 with three Original Six teams in action. The Maple Leafs will renew their rivalry with the Canadiens and the Blackhawks will raise their Stanley Cup banner against the Capitals. The schedule is also highlighted by several outdoor games planned. The annual Winter Classic will take place in Ann Arbor, MI between Detroit and Toronto. After that, several games are planned for before and after the Olympic break. The 2014 NHL Stadium series will have games taking place in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Vancouver. Yankee Stadium has already hosted boxing, soccer, and college football. They will add two outdoor hockey games in January 2014 when New Jersey and New York Islanders will each take on the Rangers. The blue shirts are the designated away team for both games due to contractual reasons with Madison Square Garden. The day before the Rangers-Devils game, the two Los Angeles-area teams will square off at Dodger Stadium. Those games along with the Winter Classic take place in January while Chicago will host Pittsburgh four days after league play resumes after the Olympics. The final outdoor game will take place the next day as Ottawa will travel across Canada to take on Vancouver at BC Place.