Less than 24 hours after news first began to circulate that the NHL and NHLPA had reached an agreement, the question everybody wants answered is when the season might start. More specifically in Los Angeles, fans keep asking when the Kings’ Stanley Cup Championship banner will be raised to the rafters.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it should be noted that, technically, the two parties agreed to the framework of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Meaning, the deal stil needs to be formally approved by both sides – a process that’s expected to take place in the next few days.
How quickly that can occur will largely impact the schedule and the dominoes around it.
According to most reports, the NHL has two plans in place, a 50-game season starting on January 15 and a 48-game season kicking off on January 19. While opinion seems to changes hourly, it appears the 48-game version is a little more likely.
Regarding the specific dates of games, there are a lot of moving parts for all teams involved and it gets even more complicated for a busy building like Staples Center, where three professional teams play home games.
Without shifting NBA games or concerts to different days or times, the Kings’ home arena has four available slots for hockey between January 15 – February 11. Note, the early part of February is blocked out due to the 55th annual Grammy Awards. Although the event itself is held on February 10, the arena is blocked out every year for more than a week in advance to get ready. Could they shave an extra day off the front end of that? Maybe. Among other things, it depends on how the contract is set up. Let’s assume it’s not likely though.
That puts the Kings’ opening game – and banner raising – most likely on Saturday, January 19. Nothing is confirmed, nor is it expected to be, until after the new CBA is fully agreed to in a few days.
As of now, the Clippers have a game on the evening of the 19th. So, it’s probably safe to assume a noon start to allow for the pre-game ceremony. Could they flip slots with the Clippers and play an evening game? Anything’s possible, albeit that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Given the limitations on dates, how many other games could they play in the first month of the season?
Well, the 28th and 31st slots were already reserved for Kings games on the original schedule, so those likely stay (more on the opponents in just a minute).
Two other possible slots could be Sunday, January 20 and/or Saturday, January 26. There are concerts at Staples Center both nights (Lady Gaga on the 29th, Muse on the 26th). Even if those concerts don’t get moved, there is at least the remote possibility of a game in the afternoon. It’s been done before in other arenas. Just a guess here, but the Lady Gaga date might be difficult to work around, as she probably has a more elaborate stage set-up to load in. Who knows, just a guess there.
To be on the safe side, if it’s a 48-game schedule, there would be three home games in January.
From mid-February though mid-April (the original end of the season), the Kings already have 15 other slots on reserve for games at Staples Center. That’s a total of 18 games when you add in the three from January.
The NHL is planning on adding two weeks to the end of the regular season – pushing it out to the end of April. That means, over those two weeks and/or during the original Feb-April block, the Kings would need to add six more home games to get to 24 (half of the 48-game schedule).
Don’t you just love math?
Now, who will the Kings play?
Scrap the old schedule. Just save yourself the misery. Don’t even look at it.
The schedule (48 or 50-games) will be against all Western Conference teams, broken down as follows – at least five games each against the Coyotes, Ducks, Stars and Sharks…plus, at least two games each against all other Western Conference teams (i.e. Blues, Canucks, Red Wings, etc.).
[UPDATE 1/8/2012 - TSN's Bob McKenzie reports the schedule matrix for a 48-game season will be as follows - four games vs. two Divisional opponents; five games vs. two Divisional opponents; three games vs. 10 Conference opponents.]
Who will the Kings play on Opening Night?
As reported on Friday, the NHL is said to be planning a series of rivalry games to jump start the post-lockout schedule. MayorsManor ran a poll to see who the readers wanted LA to face and Vancouver came out on top, receiving 35% of the votes, followed by Anaheim at 25% (full results here).
Apparently the Kings front office has the same four teams in mind, as Sunday afternoon they tweeted out a question, asking fans who they would rather see – the Canucks, Coyotes, Ducks or Sharks.
Not that it means anything to the Kings directly, but the OC Register has reported the Ducks will be opening on the road because the Honda Center is already spoken for. Meanwhile, Rogers Arena in Vancouver, HP Pavilion in San Jose and Jobbing.com Arena in Phoenix are all free for hockey games on January 19.
[UPDATE 1/8/2012 - When Bob Miller appeared on last night's MayorsManor show he talked about the Kings possibly facing a team other than the four named above (see his comments here). Now, adding fuel to that fire, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada says he thinks the Kings are set to play the Chicago Blackhawks on opening day.]
Which leaves the last piece of business as training camp.
Let’s stick to the short version of this story. Training camp is most likely opening next Saturday or Sunday.
[UPDATE 1/8/2012 - From all indications, camp will open on Sunday with off-ice tests/physicals and then on-ice drills/practices would being on Monday.]
However, like everything else in this article, it’s all subject to change.
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