When Does the NHL Season Start? Key Dates, Teams, and How to Watch

When Does the NHL Season Start? Key Dates, Teams, and How to Watch

While fandom for the National Hockey League (NHL) is primarily limited to Northern America, and pales in comparison to some of the major sports organizations, it’s also an extremely easy sport to fall in love with, if you’re willing to give it a chance. Whether you’re seeking elite athleticism, graceful skating, adept technique, or just like to see guys fighting while trying to keep their balance on the ice, the NHL has something for everyone.

In case you’re curious about hockey, or could see yourself becoming a fan if only you knew who, what, when, and how to watch, we’ve decided to compile all of the critical information that you need to know and questions that you may have in order to kickstart your NHL fandom. So let’s get right into it!

When Does the NHL Season Start?

The NHL season generally starts in the first half of October, and will run through April. This year, the 2023-24 NHL season started on October 10, 2023.

The final game of the regular season takes place on April 18, 2024, this year, which means that the regular season — which consists of 82 games for every team.

When Does the NHL Playoffs Start?

The NHL Playoffs will start on April 22, and will run for almost exactly two months. The last game of the NHL season will be on June 13, at the very latest.

If you’re new to the NHL and aren’t sure how to start watching, we would advise beginning your watch once the playoffs start. If you do so, you’ll be watching the best teams in the league, and the intensity of NHL playoff games is unmatched. The NHL is a supremely exciting sport as it is, and that excitement intensifies tenfold when the playoffs come around.

How Do the NHL Playoffs Work?

The NHL Playoffs consists of 16 teams. The three top teams from each division make the playoffs, along with the next two best teams (known as the wild card teams) from each conference. Seeding is determined by the number of regular season wins.

NHL Playoffs are a best of seven series. The home-ice advantage goes to the team with the higher seed and the games are played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format; meaning, the team with the higher seed will host games 1, 2, 5, and 7, while the lower seed will host games 3, 4, and 6.

The winning teams of the First Round of the NHL Playoffs play the other winning team in their division in the Second Round. The winners of the Second Round play in the Conference Finals, and the winner of the Conference Finals play in the Stanley Cup Final.

How Many NHL Teams Are There?

There are 32 teams in the NHL. Therefore, exactly half of the teams end up making the playoffs.

The two teams are divided up into 2 conferences (Eastern and Western Conference), and there are 4 total divisions between the 2 conferences (Atlantic Division, Metropolitan Division, Central Division, and Pacific Division).

Key Dates For The NHL Season

Given the significance of certain milestones in the NHL (National Hockey League) calendar, it is important to highlight key dates that mark pivotal events throughout the season. Below are these notable dates, encapsulated to provide a clear and comprehensive overview of the season’s structure.

  • October 10, 2023: Marked the opening night of the NHL season, signifying the commencement of the competitive journey for the teams.
  • December 23, 2023: Featured a significant rematch of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. The game saw the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the reigning 2023 NHL champions, go up against the Florida Panthers. In a compelling contest, the Panthers emerged victorious with a score of 4-2, despite playing on their home ice.
  • February 2 and February 3, 2024: Celebrated as the NHL All-Star Weekend, one of the most anticipated events in the NHL calendar. This weekend is filled with various engaging competitions that showcase the talents of the league’s brightest stars.
    • February 2: Dedicated to the NHL All-Star Skills event, a day when elite hockey players engage in fan-friendly mini-games that highlight their exceptional skills.
    • February 3: Hosts the actual NHL All-Star Game, featuring four distinct teams, each composed of 11 players. This event is known for its excitement and the high-caliber performance of the participants.
  • April 18, 2024: Marks the end of the NHL regular season, concluding the initial phase of the competition and setting the stage for the playoffs.
  • April 22, 2024: Denotes the commencement of the NHL Playoffs, a period of heightened competition where teams vie for the Stanley Cup in a series of elimination rounds.
  • June 28, 2024: The NHL Draft occurs on this date, a key event for the league’s teams to select new talent and prepare for future seasons.

These dates are critical for fans, players, and officials alike, as they navigate through the NHL season, from the opening game to the drafting of new talent, encapsulating the full arc of the annual hockey campaign.

How Does the NHL Draft Work?

The NHL Draft is an annual event where its teams pick potential amateur-eligible players to join their organizations. The draft aims to provide a fair and equitable process for teams to acquire new talent and maintain a competitive balance in the league.

The regular-season standings determine the order in which teams make their selections. The team with the fewest points in the previous season is awarded the first overall pick, and the order follows in reverse order of the standings. This process is known as the NHL draft lottery, which helps determine the top choices.

Typically, each team has one pick per round, resulting in an additional 192 players selected in rounds 2 to 7 (31 teams multiplied by six rounds), which means that, generally, 224 players are selected in the draft.

How to Watch the NHL Network?

The best way for you to watch the NHL depends on where in the world you live. The channel which is the most consistent, and has the most to offer NHL fans, is NHL Network. Which this is included in various streaming services, such as fuboTV.

Yet, because the scope and price that you might be able to get NHL Network for will vary widely, depending on where you live. So we would suggest you search for yourself on how to access NHL Network or other channels that broadcast the NHL, based on where in the world you live.

When Does NHL 24 Come Out?

NHL 24 is the most recent installation of an annual ice hockey simulation video game, that is developed and published by EA Sports. NHL 24 released on October 6, 2023, and is therefore available for anybody to play who has access to a PlayStation or Xbox console.

NHL 24 will allow you to play as your favorite teams in players in an impressive simulation experience. The game is generally well received by NHL fans, and makes for a unique and entertaining video game experience for prospective users.


That does it for all of the biggest questions that you might need to know in order to kickstart your NHL fandom. Now all there’s left to do is figure out your favorite player, favorite team, and find a way to tune in as the NHL season nears the ever-fascinating playoffs!

Grant Young
Posted in NHL