Well, it's official. After the NHL's Board of Governors signed off on it Wednesday and the NHLPA did the same on Saturday, the collective bargaining agreement is now official and the lockout is dead. The 2013 NHL season will begin next Saturday, Jan. 19.
(According to Pierre LeBrun, the union vote finished with 89-percent of players participating and 667 saying yes, 12 saying no. So, Roman Hamrlik, Erik Cole and who else?)
With the all important "Memo of Understanding" now finally agreed to, training camps can begin Sunday and official details can be unveiled. Most importantly, the NHL has finally released the full schedule after a week or reporters leaking various details of it, some not realizing certain dates were part of early drafts.
A few notes for this shortened schedule:
• The schedule matrix from the NHL: "Teams will play 18 games within the division: four games (two home and two away) against two of the teams in the division, five games (three home and two away) against one team from the division and five games (two home and three away) against the remaining divisional opponent. To complete the 720-game schedule, Clubs will play three games against each of the ten remaining non-divisional opponents from within the conference. Outside the division, a team will face five clubs twice at home and once away, while playing once at home and twice on the road against the other five teams."
• Trades and signings can begin starting at midnight ET.
• The 2013 trade deadline is April 3
• The final day of the regular season is April 27 with the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning April 30.
• Free agency will open for business on July 5. That date is set only for this season. It will return to July in 2014.
• The 9-game limit for underage junior players that exists in an 82-game format, is now only 6 games. Any player in that category who plays more than six games this season burns a year of their entry level deal.
• The 2013 NHL Draft Lottery will be held April 29. Remember, this year all non-playoff teams will vie for No. 1 overall.
• According to Renaud Lavoie of RDS, due to the fact that the last possible date of the Final is June 28, the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center in New Jersey will be held on June 30, with all seven rounds taking place in one day, .
Despite the fact that this 48-game schedule is intra-conference, there are still a few interesting dates and games on the calendar that we'll be focusing our attentions on when they come around. Those are after the jump.
Opening Night (Jan. 19)
It's the night we've all waited for since last June 11 when the Los Angeles Kings claimed the Stanley Cup. We had to wait a little longer, but we'll have a first day of action featuring 13 games beginning at 3pm ET. The season's final day, April 27, will also feature 13 games, which hopefully will have playoff places on the line.
They originally were supposed to do so on Oct. 12 against the New York Rangers, but instead Kings fans will finally see their Stanley Cup championship banner raised to the Staples Center rafters in January.
Any Pittsburgh Penguins-Philadelphia Flyers meeting (Jan. 19, Feb. 20, Mar. 7, 24)
Their playoff series last spring produced 56 goals and over 300 penalty minutes in six games. Playing each other five times over the course of 48 games in 99 days, you can be sure more fireworks will be on display. They'll meet four times this year.
Phoenix Coyotes at Chicago Blackhawks (Feb. 7, 9 pm ET)
Raffi Torres starts the season with 8 games remaining on his suspension from his hit on Marian Hossa during the playoffs. He'll miss the first meeting between the two sides on Jan. 20, but his ban will be over when they meet again in Phoenix on Feb. 7.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Los Angeles Kings (Feb. 15, 10:30 pm ET)
"Jeff Carter already made his return to Columbus in March to rekindle the memories of his tenure with the Blue Jackets. This time it's Jack Johnson's time to visit his former mates as he faces the Kings in Los Angeles for the first time since the February deal. Hopefully Johnson keeps his eyes down low and away from the Staples Centers rafters."
Hockey Day in Canada (February 9, 2013)
Winnipeg at Ottawa
Edmonton at Detroit
Toronto at Montreal
Calgary at Vancouver
Hockey Day in America (February 17, 2013)
Pittsburgh at Buffalo
Los Angeles at Chicago
Washington at NY Rangers
Two days, seven games and a celebration of hockey in both of our countries. Also, a great excuse to stock up on the chips and beer, hide the "Honey Do" list and lay on the couch for hours.
Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators (March 9, 8pm ET)
Barring any sort of injury, Ryan Suter and his 13-year, $98 million contract will visit old friends in Nashville for the first time since he and Zach Parise moved on to the Wild. Will the overwhelming response be boos, cheers, a mixed reception? The teams will play each other three times, but with only one of them coming in Nashville.
Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks (Apr. 8, 10 pm ET)
It's going to be "Welcome to Anaheim, Justin Schultz" night at Honda Center in Anaheim as Ducks fans will give their second round pick from the 2008 Draft a, uh, welcoming ovation. Schultz, you'll remember, failed to sign with the Ducks in the four years since being drafted and eventually became a free agent, allowing him to ink a deal with the Oilers.
Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins (Apr. 27, 7pm ET)
Jordan Staal plays his first game in Pittsburgh since the draft day trade that reunited him with brother Eric on the Hurricanes. There were plenty of cheers when Penguins GM Ray Shero made the trade announcement inside CONSOL Energy Center on the draft's opening day, but those cheers won't disappear when Staal returns in enemy colors.
Any intra-conference matchups you're looking forward?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy