Friday, 27 August 2010

Calendar Notes

With the summer months rolling into the autumn season, there are a lot of things to consider in terms of time. As you may be aware from reading this blog, I'll be away for the entire month of September, but this blog will not stop. Instead, I've already lined up some excellent writers to do a few pieces for me while I'm away, and they will receive the schedule this week. There are also some notes on the AHL and KHL calendars for important dates, and we'll take a look at these dates this evening. We can't be missing these events from other leagues not named "NHL", so I want to be sure you're up-to-date on your calendar with all of these events.

September 8th sees the KHL season kick off as the two-time Gagarin Cup Champion AK Bars Kazan meet the newly-named OHC Dynamo, the merged team of last year's finalist in HC MVD and the folded Moscow Dynamo. If you remember, it took Kazan the full seven games to finally knock off HC MVD, so this game should be a great start to the third KHL season.

St. Petersburg, Russia will have all eyes on it as the KHL All-Star Game festivities take place there on February 5th and 6th. The KHL season will end on February 20th, and the Gagarin Cup Playoffs will begin on February 23rd. If the Gagarin Cup Final goes the distance, the last game in the KHL season will be played on April 20th.

The AHL finally released their schedule for the teams in the circuit, and I am already looking forward to a few games on the Manitoba Moose schedule. But we'll start with the unhappy news.

The Moose have two ugly road trips this season: one that spans seven games, and another that sees eleven games played consecutively on the road. The Moose play six three-games-in-three-nights scenarios this season. While some teams thrive on this setup, the Moose have maintained that it is something they would like to see changed in the future.

"There’s no way to avoid them," Moose GM Craig Heisinger told Jim Bender of The Winnipeg Sun. "We don’t have too many of them. Some teams that bus from city to city can’t get enough of them."

While those are the blemishes on the schedule, there are some bonuses. The Moose get to play their North Division rivals a total of eight times per team. Abbotsford, Hamilton, Toronto, and Rochester will play four games in Winnipeg, and the Moose will visit those teams' respective buildings four times as well. The Moose will tangle with the Lake Erie Monsters four times as well - twice at MTS Centre and twice at Quicken Loans Arena. The expansion Oklahoma City Barons visit Manitoba on December 3 for the first time in their history.

Looking at the Eastern Conference, the Moose get to battle their nemeses in the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins once again this season. They will play these teams twice in Manitoba, and twice in their respective arenas.

The Moose open the season on the road against the Peoria Rivermen on Friday, October 8. They travel to Rockford for the second half of their two-game road trip to start the season on October 9 for a date with the IceHogs. The Moose hold their home-opener on October 15 against the Grand Rapids Griffins. After a pair of games against the Griffins, they welcome the Hamilton Bulldogs to MTS Centre.

As for special dates, the Moose will host the Chicago Wolves for the third time in fifteen years on their New Year's Eve game. The Moose get their CBC airtime on the brand-new "AHL on CBC" program when they battle the Abbotsford Heat on Sunday, January 23. They follow-up those games with a CBC airing of a Toronto-Manitoba on February 27, another Abbotsford-Manitoba affair on March 27, and close out the CBC AHL schedule with a Toronto-Manitoba battle on April 3. The January 23 and March 27 games will be broadcast live from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

Looking at the AHL's overall schedule, the opening weekend on October 8 will feature a home-and-home throwback series between the AHL's most storied clubs. From the AHL site: "The Providence Bruins will take on the Springfield Falcons (Oct. 8 and 9), the Lake Erie Monsters will square off against the Syracuse Crunch (Oct. 8 and 9) and the Hershey Bears will face the Rochester Americans (Oct. 10 and 16) while wearing throwback uniforms that will hark back to the earliest days of the American Hockey League. Providence, Springfield, Cleveland and Syracuse were among the league’s charter cities in 1936, with Hershey coming aboard in 1938 and Rochester hitting the ice in 1956."

The AHL will also see the WBS Penguins and the Hershey Bears clash on December 30 at the brand-new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh as a part of the build-up to the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic. The XCel Energy Center in Minneapolis will play host to a game between the Houston Aeros and the Peoria Rivermen on February 12 as a part of "Hockey Day In Minnesota" festivities.

The 2011 AHL All-Star Classic will take place on January 30 and 31. The Hershey Bears are playing host to this year's event, and the event reverts back to an East-vs-West format for the first time since 1942, and all of the players in the game will wear throwback sweaters from that year.

Lots of great news from the AHL and KHL, so start marking your calendars! I'm especially excited for the 75th Anniversary activities that the AHL is planning!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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