The NBA has announced its national TV broadcast schedule, with a juicy slate of five Christmas matchups revealed, as is tradition.
Getting a Christmas game is sort of the NBA’s way of validating your relevance in the league, with marketability, entertainment-value, and title hopes all considered when making the schedule.
The NHL prefers to give its players the holiday off (its marquee games are spread out around the Winter Classic and Stadium Series contests), but what if it didn’t? Which matchups would the NHL come up with to best entertain us all this holiday season?
Let’s take a stab at it.
Note: There are seven Canadian franchises, and only five games to work with. Let’s just assume that if your favourite team didn’t get a game, a Heritage Classic awaits elsewhere in the year.
Game 1, Pittsburgh-Washington, 12 p.m. ET
The holders of the last three Stanley Cup titles will do battle early in the afternoon in a rematch of this past season’s second-round playoff series.
This game will have the league’s two biggest faces do battle as captains of two Cup contenders and is a great way to get our Christmas day rolling.
Sorry you got snubbed: Tampa Bay
The Lightning would work as an alternate for either of these two teams, boasting enough star power and recent playoff meetings to warrant Christmas Day consideration. Unfortunately, the all-Metro showdown was too juicy to pass up.
Game 2, Toronto-Boston, 3 p.m. ET
Two Original 6 teams with Cup aspirations that also conveniently play in the same division and met in the playoffs this past spring. Oh, and they’re two of the league’s biggest markets.
It was very tempting to schedule John Tavares’ return to Long Island here, but we’ll leave that where it lies, on Feb. 28.
Sorry you got snubbed: Montreal
This is a case where the relative (lack) of excitement around the team itself outweighed the sheer market size. Next year, though.
Game 3, Chicago-St. Louis, 6 p.m. ET
We’re slowly moving west now, with a pair of Central Division teams with a history of playoff battles who are both looking to take a step forward from where they were in 2017-18.
The Blackhawks seem to always get a spot whenever the NHL decides to reveal its outdoor schedule, so they’re a pretty natural fit.
The Blues are a deep team, with star power on offence and defence.
Sorry you got snubbed: Colorado
Nathan MacKinnon willed this team into the playoffs last year, but his heroics weren’t enough to force himself into working over the holidays. Poor guy.
Game 4, Winnipeg-Nashville, 8:30 p.m. ET
Two of the NHL’s best teams, who met in the second round this past post-season, get another chance to show their stuff on a big stage.
They met five times in the 2017-18 regular season, with an average of 8.4 goals per contest. This is an easy game to sell.
Sorry you got snubbed: Vegas
The Golden Knights are fun, really good, and still have a large novelty excitement around them from being an expansion team. But we can’t give them everything.
Game 5, Edmonton-Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET
In a battle of the “Gretzky Trade” rivals, Connor McDavid gets to strut his stuff on a big stage, while one of the NHL’s biggest markets gets a marquee event.
The bet here is that a return to 2016-17 form for Cam Talbot ensures the Oilers can enter this game as one of the league’s better teams.
Sorry you got snubbed: Calgary
The Battle of Alberta would have been great here, but we had to keep the U.S. happy.