NEW YORK — The Boston Bruins raise a Stanley Cup championship banner for the first time since 1972 and Winnipeg welcomes the National Hockey League back to town after a 15-year hiatus when the 2011-12 NHL regular season commences in October. The League announced the full regular-season schedule for all 30 teams on Thursday.
Opening night is Thursday, Oct. 6. It will feature a coast-to-coast North American tripleheader. The Philadelphia Flyers visit TD Garden to face the Cup champ Bruins — matching epic foes from the last two postseasons. The Toronto Maple Leafs will host their long-time rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, at Air Canada Centre, while the Pittsburgh Penguins travel across the continent to Rogers Arena to take on the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks.
On Friday, Oct. 7, the spotlight will shift across the Atlantic Ocean when the Compuware NHL Premiere games bring NHL regular-season hockey to Europe for the fifth straight season and to Germany for the first time in history. Four NHL teams — the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers — will play in four regular-season games in three European capitals on Oct. 7 and 8. The games in Stockholm and Helsinki will represent League returns to those hockey hotbeds while the Sabres-Kings game on Oct. 8 in Berlin will be a historic NHL first for that city.
Winnipeg fans, who required mere minutes to purchase all available season tickets at the MTS Centre, will have to wait a few days longer to bear witness to the return of NHL regular-season hockey. On Sunday night, Oct. 9, Winnipeg will welcome Montreal in its first NHL home opener in the Manitoba capital since 1995.
The Bruins will begin their defense of the Stanley Cup with home games against two of the teams they defeated in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After playing host to the Flyers on opening night, they welcome fellow conference finalist Tampa Bay to TD Garden two days later.
Boston will travel to Chicago in a matchup of the past two Cup champions a week later on Oct. 15, and the Bruins will see the Canucks for the lone time in the regular season on Jan. 7 in a game slated for an afternoon start in Boston.
Two teams have nine-game road trips during the season. Chicago vacates United Center for its annual "circus trip" from Jan. 31-Feb. 18, while San Jose will be on the road from Feb. 12-26 while HP Pavilion is home to the SAP Open, a stop on the ATP World Tour.
The team with the most unique start of the season is the Rangers. Because of renovations being completed at Madison Square Garden, they will play their first seven games away from home. They will play two games in Europe and one on Long Island before a four-contest tour of Western Canada.
A few other interesting contests to point out include Washington's trip to Pittsburgh on Oct. 13 in the first meeting of the season between the two rivals, who were featured on the HBO series "24/7" and squared off in the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field.
Winnipeg and Phoenix will play twice in the 2011-12 season, and the Coyotes will return to Manitoba on Dec. 1. Another game that could be of note is when Colorado plays host to Edmonton on Oct. 28. The Oilers and Avalanche own the first two picks in the 2011 Entry Draft, so it could be the first meeting of those two players if they make their respective NHL rosters this season.
The League's 1,230-game schedule will pause from Jan. 26 to 30 so the world's top players can gather in Ottawa for the 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend. Then, what is sure to be yet another furious stretch run goes non-stop until a wild final day of the regular season, Saturday, April 7, when all 30 teams are in action for a 15-game maximum slate.
There are several contests between rivals on the final day of the season, including Chicago at Detroit, Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Toronto at Montreal and Los Angeles at San Jose.
Under the NHL scheduling matrix, each team plays six games against each team in its division (24 games), four games against the non-division teams within its conference (40 games), plus 18 non-conference games — including at least one game against each club in the other conference (15 games) and three other games against select teams.
Release of the national TV schedules (CBC, NBC, NHL Network, TSN, RDS and VERSUS) most likely will occur in August.