One of the great things about travel is that you can combine it with all kinds of different interests. If you’re passionate about architecture, for example, every city holds a new wealth of buildings and structures to explore. Similarly, if you love the opera, you can find performances in almost every country that you choose to visit.
So it goes with almost any other interest you may have, such as sport. For example, if you’re interested in a game like ice-hockey, it’s played all over the world. For most fans of the game though, it’s undeniable that Canada and the States give you the widest selection of teams to pick from so that you can combine seeing a live game of ice hockey during a trip. And with the NHL season in full flow at the moment, there are some great games happening in so many different cities, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The NHL season is divided into two parts. First, there’s the regular season which starts in October and runs through until April. During the regular season, each team plays 82 games, a total of 1230 games. These games dictate their standings in the League. At the end of the regular season, the three top seeds from each division and two wild card teams from each conference move forward into the playoff eliminations – the second part of the season, the Stanley Cup playoffs. These lead to the naming of the Stanley Cup champion team at the end of the NHL season.
In the last ten years, the Stanley Cup has been held by a total of eight teams, as two teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks, have won the Stanley Cup twice. The 2014 Stanley Cup winners were the Los Angeles Kings who beat the New York Rangers by four games to one.
If you look at betting sites such as Betfair the current 2015 Stanley Cup favourites are the Chicago Blackhawks, priced at around 7/1. Other teams tipped with a strong chance include the Anaheim Ducks, the Boston Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So which game should you watch?
Of course, that depends on which cities you’re going to and whether you can get tickets for the games that are happening while you’re there. There’s always the option of watching the games on TV, but you won’t be able to get the same magic as you’d get sitting in the crowd at an actual fixture.
The NHL history goes back a long way, from the early days when there were only six teams in the NHL. There have always been traditional rivalries between certain teams, and getting a match to one of those clashes would always promise to be very atmospheric.
One example of a long-running rivalry is between the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres, which has been ongoing since the Sabres joined the NHL in 1970. The two teams have met in the playoffs eight times, and five of those meetings were won by the Bruins. For 15 seasons the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres were the only American teams in the Northeast Division, which intensified their rivalry. However, in 2013-14, the two teams joined the new Atlantic Division along with Detroit, Florida and Tampa Bay. Getting to see the Boston Bruins play the Buffalo Sabres would certainly add some great memories to any trip.
And as the Chicago Blackhawks have been widely tipped as the next Stanley Cup winners, it would be great to catch one of their games during the regular season this year, even if you can’t get a hold of tickets during the playoffs. With each team playing so many games in the regular season of the NHL, it should be easy enough to find a date and a venue that suits your travel schedule, especially as each team plays exactly half of their games on the road.
However, if your travel dates don’t happen to coincide with an NHL game date, then don’t worry, you can always take a tour of one of the team stadiums instead. The Consol Energy Center is home to the Pittsburgh Penguins and tours can be booked online. The tour will take visitors to all the different seating levels, the First Niagara, Captain Morgan and Lexus Clubs as well as highlighting the environmentally-friendly nature of the building. But if you’re hoping to see inside the Penguins’ locker room, you’ll be disappointed as this isn’t included in the regular tour. What you will get is a great flavour of the history of the team. Of course, this is just one of many stadium tours that are available – and it really depends on where you’ll be and which team most interests you in the NHL.