Mark These Outdoor NHL Games Down On Your 2017 Calendar

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports 2016 NHL: Winter Classic-Montreal Canadiens at Bos

The always-anticipated holiday season will soon come to an abrupt end when that last present is open, that last candle is lit or that lingering family member finally heads home.

But for hockey fans, the holiday season extends a bit past the New Year. For diehard fans, every game day is a holiday, especially when your team is headed outdoors.

The NHL announced four outdoor games to be played this season, the first of which came back in October when the Winnipeg Jets hosted the Edmonton Oilers for a modern-day rematch of the once-heavy rivalry that featured Wayne Gretzky and Dale Hawerchuk.

The 2016 Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic
Final: Edmonton 3, Winnipeg 0

This season marked the fourth Heritage Classic, a Canadian-team only game. The previous three were held in 2003, 2011 and 2014. The success of the 2003 showdown is what initially led to the NHL introduction of the successful Winter Classic showdowns.

This particular Heritage Classic was hyped as 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid pitted against 2016’s second-overall pick, Patrik Laine. McDavid currently leads the NHL with 40 points and Laine leads all rookies with 29 points.

Laine’s 18 goals place him behind only Sidney Crosby (21) and David Pastrnak (19).

A three-goal second period and a 31-save Cam Talbot shutout spoiled the home team’s hosting of the event.

The 2017 NHL Centennial Classic
Who: Toronto Maple Leafs v. Detroit Red Wings
When: 3:00 p.m. | Sunday, January 1, 2017
Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Ont.

The Centennial Classic was created to honor Toronto’s 100th NHL season, but is also set up as a 2014 Winter Classic rematch. In 2014, the Maple Leafs defeated the Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout at Michigan Stadium.

Now, three years later, each team has made significant changes to their rosters. The Red Wings have added players including Dylan Larkin, Thomas Vanek and Mike Green while losing players including Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson—who scored the opening goal in the 2014 face-off.

The Maple Leafs have added players including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Frederik Andersen while losing players including Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf.

Perhaps the biggest change is what Toronto doesn’t put on the ice. The franchise has shifted to a full rebuild, all in the hands of Lou Lamoriello, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock who was at the helm of Detroit for ten years, including its 2014 Winter Classic loss.

The 2017 NHL Winter Classic
Who: St. Louis Blues v. Chicago Blackhawks
When: 1:00 p.m. | Monday, January 2, 2017
Where: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Mo.

A growing rivalry between two Central Division powers will go head-to-head in front of its largest-ever live crowd. Busch Stadium, which houses upwards of 43,000 seats, will give the 2016 Conference Finals runner-up the honor of becoming the eight city to host the Winter Classic.

The success of past Winter Classic events has continued to push the NHL to market more outdoor games. This will be the ninth Winter Classic and St. Louis will become the twelfth team to have participated in the game.

St. Louis knocked the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks out of the playoffs last season in the first-round. St. Louis currently sits nine points behind the Central Division-leading Blackhawks, but also has a game in hand.

Both teams field dependable goaltending, strong defenses and four scoring lines, which always put on a show. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will look to crash the party that Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen will host.

The 2017 NHL Stadium Series
Who: Pittsburgh Penguins v. Philadelphia Flyers
When: 8:00 p.m. | Saturday, February 25, 2017
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.

One of the best rivalries in hockey is taking things outside.

The aforementioned Crosby and his 2016 Stanley Cup Champion teammates have shaken off their Stanley Cup hangover and look just as unbeatable as they were to finish the 2015-16 season and could be poised for a repeat at the Cup.

Philadelphia’s resurgence of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek could bring problems for the divisional rival as they stormed up the standings with ten consecutive wins before losing their last two games.

Add in rookie blue-liner Ivan Provorov and the stunning breakout of Wayne Simmonds and Philadelphia is showing it’s a team on the rise.

But Pittsburgh has easily had the more dependable goaltending this season and Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel have been scorching scoresheets every night.

There is no doubt both teams have this game circled on their calendar and when the Battle of Pennsylvania comes around, it always brings some old time hockey with it.

'If You Ain't First, You're Last': Erie Otters Take Step Back In OHL

Erie Otters Erie Otters Training.jpg

By Jacob Messing

A historic Erie Otters season ended suddenly in late May when host Windsor defeated the regular season champions 4-3 for the Memorial Cup, given to the winner of a four-team tournament played

Knights Have ‘Golden’ NHL Debut

© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Preseason-Vegas Golden Knights at Vancouver Canucks

By Jacob Messing

The past few months have been full of firsts for the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s 31st franchise.

In March they signed Brandon Wheat Kings center Reid Duke, in June they sifted through opposing rosters during the expansion draft and selected one player from each team, and later in the summer they unveiled their home jerseys.

10 NCAA Players To Watch In 2017-18


By Jacob Messing

The wait is almost over for hockey fans.

Social media is teeming with #IsItOctoberYet, NHL training camps have started, and teams are beginning to take shape. But mid-September doesn’t just mean a new professional season; the puck is set to drop October 1 for college hockey.

Who Will Replace Nashville's Ryan Ellis?

© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators

By Jacob Messing

Last week, the Nashville Predators announced they would be without rising defenseman Ryan Ellis until the turn of the calendar year. The 26-year-old Canadian is recovering from offseason knee surgery and has not begun skating yet.

Intersection Of NHL Trading Trends And Matt Duchene Deal

© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Ottawa Senators at Colorado Avalanche

By Jacob Messing

Is Nugent-Hopkins A Fit As Penguins Third Line Center?

© Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports NCAA Hockey: Frozen Four-Boston University vs North Dakota

By Jacob Messing

A New Test For Griffins’ Sadowy

© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators

By Jacob Messing

The last three years have been complicated for Dylan Sadowy.

He’s played in the OHL, AHL, and ECHL, been drafted into the NHL by one team, and traded to another -- although he’s yet to play a game in the world’s best league.

5 Best NHL Players On Each Side Of 30

© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Edmonton Oilers

By Jacob Messing

Earlier this month, Sidney Crosby turned 30 years old, and even at that benchmark age the Pittsburgh Penguins captain still remains at the forefront of any argument about who is the best player in the world.

However, that’s not to say a new generation of budding stars won’t be entering the conversation soon.

The NHL is becoming increasingly younger, and 20-year-old phenom Connor McDavid highlights the future of the game. So, rather than compare them -- given that Crosby has 10 years on the Edmonton Oilers’ young captain -- we decided to break down the best players by age groups, those above 30 and those below.

AHL Sophomores To Watch In 2017-18

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres

By Jacob Messing

Late summer is typically when hockey fans ask, “Is it October yet?”

While the start of the season is still a long way off, camps begin in a month -- a time for high-end prospects and AHL players to get good, long looks from their coaches as teams push for roster spots and players seek to fulfill their NHL dreams.

Why Danis Zaripov Won’t Find An NHL Home

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports OLYMPICS: Mens Hockey-Russia vs Czech Republic

By Jacob Messing

KHL star Danis Zaripov is reportedly eyeing to play his hockey stateside after a two-year ban from the International Ice Hockey Federation for a failed drug test. Both organizations follow the policies of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), resulting in Russian side AK Bars Kazan voiding Zaripov’s recently signed two-year deal.