The selection of John Tavares by the New York Islanders No. 1 overall in last month's Entry Draft saw a boon of positive exposure focused on the team, after years of playing second fiddle to the New York Rangers and countless jokes about their possible future in another city.
Since Draft day, Islanders fans have shelled out countless dollars for season tickets and Tavares-related merchandise. At this past weekend's rookie camp, at the Islanders training facility Ice Works, was packed with fans trying to get their first look at the new face of the franchise on the ice; with some arriving 3-4 hours before it started to ensure themselves a spot inside.
According to a source familiar with the 2009-10 NHL schedule, those same fans will get the opportunity to see Tavares sporting an Islanders jersey in a more meaningful way when the team kicks off its much-anticipated 2009-10 season at home on Oct. 3 at Nassau Coliseum: That's when Tavares will reportedly face-off against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nothing like being thrown right into the fire, eh? Of course, should Tavares notch a hat-trick and the Islanders defeat the Penguins, his No. 91 will be raised to the Nassau Coliseum rafters and a bronze statue of the No. 1 pick will greet fans as the enter the building for the next home game.
Keep in mind that these schedules are fluid right up until their release on Wednesday and can change quickly. But if the game is a done deal, two things immediately struck me as odd about the scheduling of the game.
1. Having gone to Coliseum every time the Penguins are in town for the past four seasons, the Islanders get a pretty good crowd to see the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin do their thing. New York was going to sell out their home opener regardless, with the hype around Tavares' debut; so why waste the Penguins' ability to draw when they can be used on a mid-week night to help boost sales?
2. This game could have received a bit more attention had it been scheduled for a Monday or Tuesday broadcast on Versus. The Penguins are on Versus 311 times a season anyway, so this could have been a good opportunity to introduce and showcase a star in the making in Tavares.
The full NHL schedule will be released tomorrow, but some news has already begun leaking out. Ansar Khan of MLive.com reported yesterday that the Detroit Red Wings' home opener will a rematch of the Western Conference Finals with Marian Hossa and the Chicago Blackhawks returning to Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 8. Two days later, the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin will come to town.
Tim Wharnsby of the Globe & Mail reported last night in his Ovechkin-to-Olympic Stadium piece that the Toronto Maple Leafs will host Montreal and the Calgary Flames will visit Vancouver in two all-Canadian home openers.
Expect other possible leaks to come within the next 24 hours before the full list is released by the NHL.