The weather is starting to warmer up, the snow and ice are beginning to thaw, and you’ve began to wonder how many days remains in the hockey season.
Perhaps your team is having the worst season ever and you want this nightmare to end.
Or maybe they are on the edge of making the playoffs and you want to know if they can nudge ahead in the standings or hold onto the final wild card spot.
It also could be your team is dominating and you want to get an idea how much time you’ll be committing to them through spring time.
Hint: If your team is that good, you might have to hold out even on early summer plans!
So, let’s get to the question you’ve asked…
When does the hockey season end?
The NHL season ends early to mid-June following the Stanley Cup Finals. This caps off a grueling 8.5 months of preseason, 82-game regular season and four rounds of playoffs combined. By season end, there are only two remaining teams competing for the championship, while all other teams are off for the summer.
The only key dates during the offseason are the entry draft and July 1st free agency.
The entry draft typically takes place during the last week of June, following the Stanley Cup Finals but before free agency.
Keep in mind that not all players become free agents on July 1st, only those who have expiring contracts.
There have been exceptions made to all of these dates, especially during lockout years and most recently, due to the disruption from COVID-19 both in 2020 and 2021.
For example, the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs took place between August 1, 2020 and September 28, 2020.
So, what are some of those other key dates when teams may have an early end to the season?
End of Regular Season
Following the 82-game regular season, there are many teams that will not qualify for the playoffs. Typically, the regular season ends by the first week of April.
16 teams make the playoffs while the remainder pack up their bags and head on home or their summer place.
Currently, there are 32 NHL franchises in the league. That leaves 16 disappointed teams that miss out on the playoffs.
Elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs
If your team is lucky enough to participate in the playoffs, there is still a large hill to climb.
They need to win four separate rounds of playoff hockey to be crowned the champions. Keep in mind, that 15 other teams are trying to do the same thing.
So, these teams compete in a best-of-7 series, where the team first to four wins advances to the next round.
If you'd like to read more about how the NHL playoffs work, make sure to check out my blog post here.
I explain in detail about the ranking format and how divisional match-ups work. The wild card teams are always the trickiest to understand!
Meanwhile, if your team falls short during any of the series, they’ll be packing their bags for an early summer and reflect on what might have been.
This disappointment will happen anytime between late-April and early-June.
As an avid fan for the 30+ years, the sooner your team loses – the better. The problem is that you become more committed and more hopeful the further along your team gets in the playoffs.
The result is greater heart break when the deep run comes to a halt.
Lastly, let me explain the different rounds of the playoffs:
Quarter Finals (Round 1): Mid-April to Late-April
Semi-Finals (Round 2): Late-April to Mid-May
Conference Finals (Round 3): Mid-May to Late-May
Stanley Cup Finals (Round 4): Late-May to Mid-June
Note that these dates are all approximate and the series may end sooner than expected.
Hockey Season Timeline for 2022-23
The last regular season game of 2022-23 NHL season will be played on April 13th.
Teams are given a few days rest before the playoff schedule begins.
The league sets the playoff calendar on the fly since the matchups may not be finalized until the last regular season game is played.
The same applies for each round of the playoffs.
For the most part, games are scheduled between 1-3 days apart in each matchup.
Sometimes there are scheduling conflicts with the venue, which interrupts the playoff schedule.
The venue can be booked for other sporting events, concerts, shows and more.
In the end, you are looking at a Stanley Cup final that ends sometime in June. Only two teams will slug it out to make it to the last round.