It’s the most wonderful time of the year - for hockey fans! After a long summer, we are just sick of the heat and are ready for some non-stop action on the ice. Here’s what you need to know about the NHL this season: 1. The realignment:
Instead of having two conferences with three divisions, the NHL will now divide into four divisions. These divisions will be the Pacific Division, the Central Division, the Atlantic Division, and finally the Metropolitan Division (say what?). The purpose for the realignment was for geographic reasons. This will allow teams like Detroit, Columbus, and Winnipeg to join a geographically friendlier division.
2. Making the playoffs:
The playoff scene also changes. The top three teams from each division will automatically make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the remaining two spots from each conference will be a lot like the ‘wild card’ format from baseball, where the next best two teams from each conference will make the playoffs regardless of what division they are in. Phew!
3. The full package:
If you have season tickets, I envy you even more! For the first time in over two decades, your team will face every single team, both home and away. This is a dream for hockey fans in the west coast as we will be able to see Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos play in Rogers Arena - in the same season! Great job, NHL!
4. Smaller goalie pads:
The NHL has shrunk the pads of goalies for this coming season. A goalie’s leg pads are not to be more than nine inches above the centre of their knee (11 inches previously). I know this may seem very insignificant that they took a couple inches off their leg pad but it really is. When a goalie wears smaller pads they have to change their entire play-style, particularly their butterfly positioning. A puck can easily squeeze through a four-inch opening between the legs with the accuracy of NHL snipers.
5. Mandatory visors:
For all those rookies entering the NHL this season, it is now a requirement for them to wear a visor. With eye injuries becoming a key concern in the NHL, the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to start grandfathering visors into the league. Like helmets back in 1979, NHL players who are not rookies can choose to not wear a visor. Eventually, all NHL players will be wearing a visor.