The schedule for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was released early Monday morning, and the Chicago Blackhawks will skate to the death against their arch-rival St. Louis Blues in the first round beginning Wednesday in The Lou.
‘Hawks fans have known the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ for a few days now; the lone remaining piece of the puzzle for hockey viewers was the ‘when.’ After seeing it in the fine print for the first time, it’s safe to say that no one in the world is pleased.
I mean, two puck drops at 8:30 pm central time? Are you fucking kidding me, Gary Bettman?
Do you even think about the kids at all? Or me? Do you think about me when making a schedule so asinine I have to inquire about your lack of empathy with children?
So much for that thing called sleep I enjoy so much and the obligation of waking up for school, work, or I don’t know, life, the next day. I might as well just start cooking breakfast during the third period now.
The Western Conference schedule (listed above) features four 8:30 pm CST start times (9 pm in all reality) in two series that feature only Central time zone teams.
It’s a clear ignorance for common sense and an active lack of self-awareness.
Then there is the Nashville debacle — where the Predators must travel to Anaheim for games one and two of their series with the Ducks and the puck won’t drop until 9:30 (again, closer to 10 pm) Nashville time.
And even when the series shifts back to Tennessee, Game 3 is still an 8:30 pm local time start.
I want to know who over at the NHL’s schedule-making offices threw back enough MadDog 20/20 to think this was an idea conducive to building a following. That person should be well out of a job by now, because there is absolutely no reason on God’s earth that games between Minnesota-Dallas and St. Louis-Chicago should start any later than 7:30 CST; nor should Nashville be privy to 8:30 and 9:30 pm start times.
Let’s say a standard NHL broadcast – with intros, intermission, and commercials – usually runs about three hours. If a game heads to overtime and/or shootout, you’re looking at even longer. And that’s just the regular season.
Now take into account playoff sponsorship advertising time and the fact that playoff hockey doesn’t save time with a five-minute 3 v 3 overtime period/subsequent shootout; we’re looking at the potential for games to last well past midnight.
Because of these late start times, the league is willingly sacrificing the opportunity to build a consistent youth following in the future for extended ad dollars now.
The NHL is at a crossroads. Its secondary franchises are stumbling and its general following is compartmentalized into cities where successful franchises reside.
Keeping hockey popular in a city like Nashville where a budding franchise is isn’t going to work by forcing the fans to stay up well into the morning to watch them play.
For comparison, not a single game of the Eastern Conference first round will begin later than 8 pm local time. However, let’s not ignore the fact that Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers have the luxury of playing their first three games over the course of a six-day stretch while Florida and the New York Islanders play their first three games in a Thursday-Friday-Sunday stretch.
Schedule-making is an art and there are a ton of moving parts to be taken into consideration, but the lack of awareness NHL schedule-makers exhibited when making the Stanley Cup Playoff first-round schedules should be called out.
Because no one is happier to catch an 8:30 Blackhawks-Blues game than the parents of Jonathan Toews’ biggest fan, little Tommy, as soon as they have to tell him to go to bed during the first intermission because it’s already an hour past his bed time.