NHL’s Jan. 19 opening day would feature huge slate of rivalry games: Report

While we’ve all been burned before while oozing optimism about the NHL’s collective bargaining negotiations, there are plenty of signs that we’re in the finale stages of a resolution to the lockout.

NHL off-ice officials are on standby, ready for the season to abruptly begin.

Training camps for NHL teams are ready to open by the end of next week according to Chris Botta, in preparation for a Jan. 19 start to a 48-game season.

Oh, and what a start it’ll be, according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. It would be a Saturday filled with nearly every NHL team in action and many against their arch rivals, including the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Philadelphia Flyers. From Rossi:

Though multiple sources said plans are subject to change, the Penguins likely would face the Flyers in Philadelphia for a nationally televised matinee on Jan. 19 if the NHL and its Players‘ Association agree on a new labor contract.

The sources said a 48-game season would begin Jan. 19, with most of the NHL‘s 30 clubs playing that day. Games would be played throughout the day as part of a celebration of hockey across North America. Rivalry games would dominate Day 1 of the shortened season to placate the NHL‘s national television partners in the United States and Canada, the source said.

Keep in mind that the first NBC telecast of the National Hockey League (besides the post-Thanksgiving games and the Winter Classic) was scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 20, between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks.

How would a new schedule work logistically?

Rossi explains:

A 48-game schedule will preserve most of the previously booked arena dates, but matchups will change because clubs will play only in-conference opponents.

Clubs would play seven games against division opponents and a home and road game against each of 10 remaining conference teams, the sources said.

No interconference games. All the more reason Teemu needs to play the 2013-14 season.

(And, alas, that means no Rick Nash vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets or Zach Parise vs. the New Jersey Devils until next season as well. Unless, of course, the Jackets are temporarily realigned/flip-flopped with the Winnipeg Jets in the 48-game season …)

The clock is ticking as the NHLPA and the NHL continue talks in New York City this evening.