With the NHL preseason underway, things are getting back to normal, pre-Covid scheduling in the hockey world. Earlier this year, it was announced that the NHL season would only start about a week late, and a full, 82 game calendar would return for the entire league.
Of course, this NHL season is also the inaugural campaign for the league’s newest club, the Seattle Kraken, who held their expansion draft over the summer, drafting key pieces to see if they can build a Stanley Cup-contending team.
With the Covid delay and Covid-accommodating season messing up scheduling and a lot of other key dates, last year’s NHL season calendar was a strange one, and things are still pushed back a bit this season. So, with the season returning to normal, here are the important dates in the 2021-2022 NHL season:
October 12, 2021: Regular season begins
The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening game of the 2021-2022 NHL season. It’s a home game for the Bolts, meaning it will take place at Amalie Arena and allow the Lightning to raise their Stanley Cup champions banner–their second in two years–to the rafters of the stadium to celebrate the team’s victory.
The second game of opening night marks the beginning of the Seattle Kraken season, where they take on the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Sin City. The two expansion teams fill the later slot of the double-header, and the Kraken will hope to have the same Cinderella season that the Knights did in their first campaign.
October 23, 2021: Seattle’s first home game
The Kraken will play in Seattle for the first time on a Saturday night, matching up against the Vancouver Canucks–a clear rivalry based on proximity of the two cities–for the first time at Climate Pledge Arena. The Kraken selected 22-year old Kole Lind from the Canucks in the expansion draft, and this game may mark his return to his former club.
January 1, 2022: NHL Winter Classic
In a game that was originally scheduled for New Years Day 2021 (before the shortened season began on January 13), the St. Louis Blues will head to Target Field–the home of the MLB’s Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis–to take on the NHL’s Minnesota Wild for an outdoor contest. The outdoor game tradition began in 2008, when the first Winter Classic Game was held on New Years Day in Buffalo.
February 3-22, 2022: Olympic break
A substantial break in the NHL season comes in February, after the league finally reached an agreement to send NHL players to the Olympics again. While the Olympics themselves take place from February 4 to the 20th, the NHL gave the players a few extra days to travel and recover from the international competition.
March 21, 2022: Trade deadline day
With the NHL season returning to quasi-normalcy, trade deadline day is pushed back from April–the time for the shortened NHL season’s trade deadline day–to March 21, a few weeks after it is regularly held (at the end of February). Of course, this accommodates the Olympic break as well as the slightly delayed start to the NHL season.
The trade freeze ahead of the playoffs begins, and teams are not allowed to sign free agents, after trade deadline day.
May 2, 2022: Playoffs begin
Just less than a month after their usual, early April start time, the NHL playoffs begin, returning to their standard format, as the league revisits their standard format for conferences and divisions, broken up as follows:
Two conferences, Western and Eastern, 16 teams per conference.
Two divisions per conference, 4 divisions total, 8 teams per division.
The top 8 teams from each conference make the playoffs, with the top teams from each division securing the first and second spots in their conference, based on point totals.
June 30, 2022: Last possible day of NHL playoffs
The 30th marks the last possible day for the NHL playoffs, assuming each series takes seven games to settle. The Stanley Cup could be awarded earlier (if teams take less than seven games to settle a series), but the 30th is the last statistically possible day that a team could win the award.
July 7-8, 2022: NHL draft
After the 2021-2022 NHL season comes to a close, the draft, where teams select top prospects from various international minor leagues, takes place. This season’s draft will be hosted by Montreal, the home of the Canadiens.
July 13, 2022: Free agency opens
The movement ban for clubs lifts, and teams are now allowed to sign free agents and make trades throughout the summer and into the 2022-2023 season. Free agency opening day is one of the busiest days for teams and general managers every season.