Calendar October November 2024

LeBrun: Presenting the ideal NHL calendar, from puck drop to free agency

Well, I’ve posted enough about it over the years on social media that I might as well write the darn article.

November  Calendar  Templates for Word, Excel and PDF
November Calendar Templates for Word, Excel and PDF

I present the perfect, modified NHL calendar.

Well, in my world anyway. But probably for a lot of hockey fans, too.

October and November  Printable Calendar Template
October and November Printable Calendar Template

Start of season

Let’s drop the puck for the regular season on or around Sept. 20, depending on which weeknight makes the most sense. This would be 20 days before the start of the 2023-24 regular season, which was on Oct. 10.

October and November  Printable Calendar Template
October and November Printable Calendar Template

The leaves are turning, the kids are back in school, drop the puck!

Well, that’s certainly how many of us feel in Canada and northern U.S. markets.

There are two groups who would go to war with me on this.

The first are the southern U.S. NHL clubs. They don’t want many games in October, never mind starting in September. As it stands, most clubs from those markets try to minimize their home schedules for October.

There is a famous story of Dallas Stars governor Jim Lites standing up in a Board of Governors meeting years ago and suggesting the NHL delay the start of the regular season until November.


“Yes, several times,” Lites told The Athletic this week, not only confirming it happened but saying he tried to make the argument more than once in owners’ meetings.

To be fair, it happened a long time ago, back in the 1990s and early 2000s, as the Stars were working hard to gain a foothold in their market. But still, Lites tried for years to convince people of a November start.

The former Detroit Red Wings executive, who is a smart dude, moved to the Stars in the 1990s and realized he wasn’t in hockey-crazed Michigan anymore.

“It’s less of a problem now, quite frankly, because of the popularity of our sport now in nontraditional markets,” said the Stars chairman. “But when we came down here in the ‘90s, we were fighting Friday night high school football, Saturday college football, Sunday NFL football — you were always up against it. When we were starting the season the first week in October, we were up against that.’’

The first round of baseball playoffs was all the more of a challenge, he said, adding that these were challenges for many U.S. markets, not just Dallas.

“That’s what it was really about,” Lites said of his lobbying to delay the season. “And you know, we’ve pushed it back. Gary (Bettman) has recognized it over time and pushed it back a little bit.”

That has left us with a mid-October start, which I don’t like at all. But I get where Lites is coming from. As far as the idea of a November season start, it’s not something Lites has brought up for many years.

The second group of people who wouldn’t be happy with a Sept. 20 start would be ESPN and TNT. The two U.S. rightsholders prefer it to be later in October because of baseball playoffs and those same challenges.

And this is where the NHL needs to take a stand with both groups and stop worrying about what other sports are doing. There’s always something to worry about. That’s life. Either people want to watch your sport or they don’t.

In fact, by delaying the start of the regular season and not having the Stanley Cup playoffs begin until late April, you’re running right into the start of the NBA playoffs. This year, both leagues’ postseasons start on the exact same day, April 20. How does that make any sense?

The expansion of the sport to U.S. southern markets has been terrific and critical over the years. You see the impact in youth hockey and the game growing in all kinds of places. The sport needed that. I love that part.

And this is where I do believe the NHL has a much tougher task than the other big-four North American sports leagues, as far as balancing seven Canadian teams with its U.S. clubs. The deep-rooted Canadian psyche is that hockey starts by early October at the latest. If not late September. It’s who we are.

But no question it’s fair to understand that the NHL has southern U.S. markets with different challenges and priorities. No other league has that kind of delicate balance to cater to between both countries. There’s only one Canadian team to worry about in each of the NBA and MLB, and the calendar isn’t an issue with the Raptors or Blue Jays.

But again, if I were NHL commissioner, the puck drops when it drops and you don’t negotiate that. I would drop it Sept. 20 but can live with Oct. 1. At the latest.

Cancel All-Star

I respect Nikita Kucherov because he was the most honest player on the ice at All-Star weekend this year. He didn’t give a crap. Neither should any of us.

The event is a dog’s breakfast. The league, to its credit, has worked tirelessly over the years to improve it. A lot of smart people are involved. But it’s like putting lipstick on a pig. There’s only so much you can do.

However, best-on-best hockey is back. There’s the Four Nations event next February, which should be amazing; then the Winter Olympics in February 2026; then the hope is the World Cup of Hockey in February 2028; then Olympics again in February 2030. Let’s save the midseason breaks in the schedule for best-on-best hockey. It’s wild to me that the NHL has announced an All-Star event (hosted by the New York Islanders) right before the February 2026 Winter Olympics.

In the years in which there’s no World Cup or Olympics, take advantage of it by spreading out the NHL schedule to make it less compact for teams for once (teams will still get their bye weeks within that).

I would do away with All-Star weekend. Sorry.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Can we stop scheduling NHL games on the Monday night in November when the Hockey Hall of Fame has its induction?

That night should be entirely focused on celebrating the men and women who get enshrined in the Hall. It would also allow more people from different teams to attend without scheduling conflicts.

No games on induction night, please. We can do this.

Holiday trade freeze

Credit to Brian Burke for this one. For years when he was an NHL general manager, Burke would extend the existing roster freeze on his club to cover a longer period of the holidays so his players didn’t have to worry about being traded during that time of year.

The NHL’s official holiday roster freeze this season was from Dec. 19 at midnight until Dec. 28 at 12:01 am. I would extend it to cover all the holidays, thinking of players’ families. Why not Dec. 19 until Jan. 4 or 5?

Stanley Cup playoffs

They would start on or around April 1, depending on a TV-friendly day for rightsholders, and the Cup would be awarded on or around May 31.

The Stanley Cup hasn’t been won before June since May 25, 1991, when Mario Lemieux won his first of back-to-back Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They won it on June 1 the following season.

Since then, the Cup Final has always been played post-May, and this year, the league says the last possible day for the Cup Final to end is June 24 — four days before the NHL draft in Vegas.

Like, come on.

Hockey wasn’t meant to be played in June, especially mid to late June.

I can’t tell you how many hockey fans have come up to me over the years to comment on my May 31 Cup rants. They agree 100 percent. I’ve never heard a fan ever say, “Let’s have more hockey in June.” Ever.


With the Cup awarded by May 31, June can breathe a little easier now with what is always a busy NHL offseason.

Let’s hold the NHL draft the second week or weekend of June.

And let’s move up the start of free agency from July 1 to June 25.

I’ve never understood why the NHL and NHL Players’ Association would want some of their biggest signings to play out on July 1, a national holiday in Canada, or even over the first few days of July dipping into the July 4th U.S. holiday. That’s not a great three- to four-day period to get media attention for signings.

And yes, everyone knows I can’t wait to go to the cottage. But believe me, when I’ve spoken with team executives and players over the years, they absolutely agree that moving up the opening of free agency a few days to sometime in late June would appeal to them.

The problem lies with the NHL’s legal year ending June 30. Expiring contracts for players and coaches and management conclude June 30. So it would require some stickhandling to change the date and language on that. But I think it can be done.

So there you have it: Puck drop by Sept. 20, the playoffs over by May 31, the draft in mid-June, and the big free-agent signings done by June 25 or 26.

Do I ever think any of this has a chance of happening? Probably not.

There are lots of governors who share Lites’ view of the calendar.

I suspect we are stuck with late June Stanley Cup games for many years to come.

Which is too bad.

You can buy tickets to every NHL game here.

(Photo: Patrick Smith / Getty Images)