By Doug Halberstadt
After an ugly and lengthy labor dispute between the National Hockey League (NHL) players and owners that threatened to wipe out the entire season, a settlement has been reached. The season will commence this Saturday (Jan. 19).
Chicago Blackhawk fans will be able to watch them in their season-opener against the Los Angeles Kings, last year’s Stanley Cup champions. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC starting at 2 p.m. When the puck drops, it will mark the beginning of the Blackhawks’ 85th regular season, albeit a shortened one.
Because of the lockout, each team will play 48 games entirely against clubs within their own conference. There will be no interconference play until the Eastern and Western champions arrive at the Stanley Cup Finals in June.
The 2012-13 schedule matrix will accentuate the most-heated rivalries in the game, especially with each team playing 18 of its games against division foes. Eight of those 18 games are against two of the teams in the division (four each; two home and two away); five games (three home and two away) are against one team from the division; and five games (two home and three away) are against the remaining divisional opponent.
Clubs will play three games against each of the 10 remaining non-divisional opponents from within the conference, playing half those clubs in a two-home, one-away series and the other half in a two-away, one-home set.
Ten of Chicago’s first 12 games will be played on the road, including a season-long six-game swing from Jan. 30 to Feb. 10. Chicago’s only other trip longer than two games is a four-game stretch from March 14-20.
The Blackhawks will open their 24-game home schedule Tuesday, Jan. 22, when they host the St. Louis Blues at 7:30 p.m. at the United Center. Thirteen of the club’s 24 contests in Chicago take place on weekends, including seven Fridays, one Saturday and five Sundays. Chicago will skate in a season-long seven-game home stand from Feb. 12-25, equaling a franchise-long originally set during the 1926-27 season (matched in 1951-52 and 1969-70).
Another date on the schedule Chicago fans will be looking forward to is April 20, which is when the Phoenix Coyotes will visit Chicago. Perhaps the scariest sight of last year’s postseason was Blackhawks star Marian Hossa being taken off on a stretcher after a hit from the Coyotes’ Raffi Torres, who was suspended 25 games and later had the punishment reduced to 21 games. By the time this date rolls around, Torres will be back and making his return to Chicago. Assuming Torres is in the lineup, it’ll be the first opportunity for Blackhawks fans to address Torres since his hit on Hossa.
Tickets for 2012-13 regular-season single games are on sale now exclusively at ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Fans holding tickets for originally scheduled games will be contacted with further information about the status of their original purchase. Fans with any further ticket questions are encouraged to visit chicagoblackhawks.com or call the Blackhawks at (312) 455-7000.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 16-22, 2013, issue