If John Tortorella needs time to get to know his hockey team, the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks is going to get it.
Among the first things to jump off the page when the 2013-14 schedule was released Friday was the fact the Canucks will start the new season with 13 of their first 20 games away from Rogers Arena. That includes a season-high seven game road trip that starts October 15th in Philadelphia and ends 10 days later in St. Louis.
So the Canucks will have plenty of bonding time on flights, in hotels and in visiting arenas in the early going.
But once they get past the 20 game mark, the Canucks will begin feasting on home cooking as they then enter a stretch of 11 of their next 15 games on home ice. That portion of the schedule includes the longest homestand of the season: a six-game run from November 14th through 25th which will see visits from San Jose, Dallas, Florida, Columbus, Chicago and new division-mate Los Angeles.
While the National Hockey League regular season is a grind – especially for teams on the Pacific Coast – the Canucks catch a break in the middle of the schedule. From a December 22nd home game against Winnipeg through a January 29th visit from Chicago, the Canucks find themselves in a five-week stretch in which they will never be more than one time zone from home which should help ease some of the travel burden.
That includes an unheard of full week off over Christmas (December 22-29) when the Canucks have usually been a very busy hockey club.
The National Hockey League will shut down for two weeks (February 9-25) for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi giving many of the Canucks another break in their schedule. And once they start up again, the Canucks will finish the regular-season with 13 of their final 22 games at home. So if the team can position itself well prior to the Olympics, the Canucks will have a chance to enter into what will truly be a home stretch of the schedule and they wind up the year with six of their final seven games on home ice.
One of those home games after the Olympics is the Heritage Classic against Ottawa at BC Place Stadium which will be a 1 p.m. Pacific time face-off. That’s one of eight afternoon games on the schedule that will start at 3 p.m. or earlier – although the only matinee for the home fans this season.
In any regular season, there are always a handful of games that standout among the rest and the 2013-14 schedule certainly offers its share of marquee match-ups. With the format reverting to at least one home and away meeting between every team in the league, Canucks fans won’t have to wait long to see Cory Schneider in a New Jersey Devils uniform on October 8th, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on October 28th, first overall draft pick Nathan MacKinnon and Colorado on December 8th, the first visit from the Boston Bruins since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on December 14th, Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning ring in the new year on January 1st, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins come calling on January 7th and John Tavares and the New York Islanders roll through town on March 10th.
And, of course, with realignment the Canucks are going to see their rivalries with teams like San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim all taken to new levels. So it must be noted that the season-opener on October 3rd in the Bay Area should have some significance for the Canucks since the Sharks were the team that swept them from the playoffs in May.
For those who plan to follow the Canucks out on the road this coming season, the new schedule offers some intriguing possibilities. From November 5th through 10th, the Canucks chase the sunshine to Phoenix, San Jose and then finish off with back-to-back games in Southern California.
They return for a weekend set in SoCal on January 4th and 5th and from January 13th to 16th they play three games in four days in Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix.
Six-and-a-half-months after the regular season begins, it comes to an end on Saturday April 13th with the Calgary Flames in town to face the Canucks.
In all, it’s 82 games over 193 nights with a week off at Christmas and two weeks off for the Olympics.
And for the survivors, they’ll have earned the right to lace up the skates and start the second season giving them a chance to take a run at the Stanley Cup.
Enjoy what’s left of summer. In 10 weeks, it’s hockey season.
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