Olympic impressions: Looking at the Hawks’ first games in VancouverContinue reading.
New schedule released; Hawks have no home games between Jan, 26 and March 4
The Blackhawks host the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 26 next year. Their next game at the United Center won’t be until March 4. That’s the most glaring quirk of the 2013-14 schedule, which was released on Friday after the NHL and NHLPA finally reached an agreement to send players to the Sochi Olympics in February.
The Hawks will open the defense of their Stanley Cup — and raise their fifth championship banner to the rafters — on Oct. 1 against reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, whom they’ll also face twice in a six-game preseason schedule. From there, though, things get interesting.
The circus trip will take the Hawks to Colorado, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Dallas and Phoenix from Nov. 19-30. The ice show trip will take them to Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix from Jan. 28 through Feb. 7. The league will then shut down from Feb. 9-26 as players — including several Hawks — head to Russia for the Olympics. The Hawks restart their season on Feb. 27 at the New York Rangers, then “host” the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 1 at Soldier Field. Finally, they return to the United Center on March 4 against the Colorado Avalanche.
This will be the fifth straight Winter Games to feature NHL players, dating back to Nagano in 1998. Despite it being the sport’s biggest showcase, it’s a significant scheduling headache for the league, especially following a late, lockout-shortened season.
“The decision to participate … was in many ways a difficult one,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “But one that we know will be well received by our players, and most important, by the vast majority of our fans.”
Among the Hawks certain to play are Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith for Canada, Patrick Kane for the U.S., and Marian Hossa for Slovakia. Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp will be in the mix for Canada, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger for Sweden. Nick Leddy and Brandon Saad could be dark horses for the U.S.
This season also features the league’s new alignment, which puts the Hawks in the Central Division of the Western Conference with Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The other division names are the Atlantic, Metropolitan and Pacific. The schedule will have every team playing a home game and a road game against each team from the other conference, meaning fans will see every team in their city at least once.
Another change has most Hawks home games starting at 7 p.m. rather than 7:30 p.m.