3 Simple Tips to Get Ready for NHL Season Start
Summer can be a frustrating few months for hockey fans. After last season ended with an unforgettable Stanley Cup Finals, fans hunkered down for a long, uneventful offseason. So, the NHL season start finally rolls around in October, we'll be ready and waiting. In the meantime, there's plenty that hockey fans can do to get ready for the 2019-20 season. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re prepared when the NHL season start arrives.
Learn the Rule Changes
Every offseason, the NHL tweaks the rules just a little bit. This year, they’ve focused on improving player safety, video reviews, and the overall flow of the game. Most of these are minor changes, but it’s still worthwhile to know what's changed.
For starters, coaches will have more freedom to challenge goals that follow illegal plays in the offensive zone. This can include high-sticking a puck to a teammate, hand-passing the puck, pucks hitting the spectator netting, and pucks that have gone out of play. However, challenges will only be allowed if the puck doesn’t leave the offensive zone between the time of the missed call and the goal.
Also on the replay front, there will be no limit on the number of challenges a coach can make. However, a minor penalty will be assessed after an unsuccessful coach challenge for delaying the game. For the second unsuccessful challenge of a game and each one thereafter, that team will be assessed with a double minor penalty.
There are also a few rule changes not related to replays. For instance, defensive teams will no longer be able to make a line change if the goalie freezes the puck on a shot from beyond the red line. Also, a goal will be awarded if a goalie purposely displaces the net during a breakaway opportunity. Finally, the league will be paying closer attention to players who lose their helmets in an effort to improve player safety. Players are now instructed to leave the ice right away or quickly retrieve and replace their helmet if it comes off during the run of play.
Know the Marquee Games
One of the most important dates of the 2019-20 NHL season is opening night. The NHL season start is set for October 2 at 7:00 when Toronto hosts Ottawa, so getting Maple Leafs opening day tickets is the only way to see the season get underway in person. However, the highlight of opening night is a game between the Capital and the Blues, the reigning Stanley Cup champions. St. Louis will be at home to raise their championship banner, which means Blues opening day tickets will be a hot commodity.
There are also three outdoor games this season fans should be ready to watch. The first will be the fifth edition of the Heritage Classic, which will take palace in Regina, Saskatchewan on October 26 between the Jets and Flames. The next will be the Winter Classic on January 1. This year’s Winter Classic will be special because it will be played by the Stars and Predators at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, making it the southernmost Winter Classic in the history of the event. Finally, the Air Force Academy will host a Stadium Series game on February 15 between the Avalanche and the Kings.
If all that isn't enough for you, we'll be celebrating Hockey Day in Canada on February 8 and Hockey Day in America on February 16. On February 8, all seven Canadian teams in the NHL will be on the ice, including three games between two Canadian franchises. Then on February 16, there will be nine games played between 12:30 and 8:30. Among the most intriguing of matchups that day are the Rangers hosting the Bruins, the Predators hosting the reigning champion Blues, and the Red Wings paying a visit to the Penguins.
Find a Winner
One final activity all NHL fans should do to prepare for the 2019-20 NHL season start is to figure out which teams are genuine contenders to win the Stanley Cup in 2020. Obviously, all eyes are on the St. Louis Blues to potentially repeat after finally winning their first Stanley Cup last year. But there will be plenty of competition. It starts with the Boston Bruins, who lost to the Blues in the Finals and return largely the same team they had last season. The Tampa Bay Lightning will also be a contender after winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season before losing to the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs.
Of course, the list of Stanley Cup contenders goes far beyond those three teams. The Maple Leafs have had a busy offseason and will be looking to win their first Cup since 1967. Fans shouldn’t forget about the Las Vegas Knights, who have a chance to contend for a title after their unlikely run to the Finals as an expansion team two seasons ago. Finally, teams like the Predators, Capitals, and Avalanche are all potential dark horses to win the Stanley Cup in 2020, which should make for a fun and unpredictable NHL season start.