Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

It's No Longer Baseball Season

I will fully admit that I have no horse in the race when it comes to the World Series. I couldn't care less whether one team breaks its championship drought or not. While I was in the game when the Blue Jays were still alive, I lost interest pretty rapidly after they were eliminated. This, however, isn't a baseball thing or a teams-in-the-championship thing. Instead, it's a man-this-season-is-way-too-long thing. It happens in baseball, it definitely happens in hockey, and it's starting to wear on me as a sports fan. What can we, as fans, do about the lack of off-season for us?

The honest answer is nothing. Believe me, if there was some way to cut a month or two off the NHL season, I would. "But Teebz," you exclaim, "that's blasphemy!" As a hockey blogger, you're probably right that it is something that no "true hockey fan" would ever say. To that statement, I respond with we just finished our first month of the NHL season and the sixth week of NHL hockey if you count the World Cup of HockeyMoney. Taking into account that the Stanley Cup Playoffs went into June, that's a mere two and half months of no hockey for players and fans. And we wonder why players may be getting hurt more often?

There is already talk about impending disaster on the horizon as the NHL and NHLPA get ready to stare one another down in 2020 over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Player salaries will be talked about again, and there is no way that the NHLPA is going to give money back after having done so once in the past. Hockey-related revenues are up if we're to believe all the statements coming out of the NHL offices, so expect the players to ask for a bigger chunk that revenue this time around. Owners, meanwhile, are still feeling the crunch in some cities and the NHL will want to remedy that before looking at any further expansion or relocation, so there appears to be a stand-off headed our way for the fourth time in my life.

This is where the fans should demand that the season be shortened. Games become more meaningful, points are all the more valuable, and the entire game would be better off from an NHL standpoint, an NHLPA standpoint, and a fan's standpoint.

Don't believe me? The World Cup of HockeyMoney showed that despite the odds being stacked against them, Team Europe was good enough to knock off some very good teams to make the final while Team North America gave everyone a glimpse into the future of the NHL while nearly crushing the hopes of some established national programs. The short round-robin schedule made every point and every game extremely valuable when it came to making the playoff round, and the elimination of Team North America despite a 2-1-0 record shows how important those points, games, and goals really were.

I can hear a number of you shaking your heads and muttering under your breath about the "stupidity" in the comparisons. Yes, I'll grant you that there aren't many NHL teams as good as Team Canada, Team Europe, Team Russia, or Team Sweden, but the short round-robin schedule made for a far more exciting finish where Team North America needed help to make the playoff round. Yes, there are races down to the end of the season in the NHL right now, but does that January game between Nashville and Florida have as much riding on it as, say, Nashville and Dallas with a week to play? At what point do teams look at the Carolina Hurricanes and circle the dates they face them as "must-win" games?

I'm no schedule-maker by any means, and having 31 teams to deal with next season is going to cause all sorts of scheduling headaches when trying to make fair and balanced schedules throughout the league. I tried working some numbers around, but there's always a few teams who run into scheduling problems where they don't see a team for the entire year or they play one team too many times. There will always be a demand from teams to see more Corsby, Ovechkin, Matthews, Stamkos, McDavid, and the other good, young stars of the league, yet the teams such as Nashville, Carolina, Vancouver, and Ottawa probably won't get that demand. How does one solve that problem so that every team has a shot at extra revenue?

Again, I'm no schedule-maker, but let's just say that my fandomness is waning. Baseball season runs into football season which runs into hockey season which overlaps with basketball season which carries into baseball season. For as much as we hear that professional sports is a 365-day profession now, being a fan requires the same kind of dedication and it's tiring if you watch more than a couple of teams.

With no fan off-season, one just rolls from season into season of various sports, and the leagues have to hope that these fans have a ton of cash to spend on tickets and merchandise. If there were short breaks, though, one could legitimately prepare and budget for these changing sports seasons. The World Cup of Hockey Money saw its attendance for the final series between Canada and Europe wane drastically from the round-robin because there were baseball playoffs happening in Toronto, and that captured the city's attention. I would know - I was in Toronto during that time. Had hockey not started until mid-October, people in Toronto would have been out in droves for the final.

Perhaps it's just me who is feeling a bit burned out by this lack of changing of seasons. Maybe I need a break from the extreme fandom I have for hockey because I like to watch other sports as well. Or maybe that's part of the problem - I like sports with am emphasis on hockey. Perhaps I'm not the Bo Jackson of fandom I thought I could be in following hockey, baseball, and CFL football. I know I used to be able to do it, but I can't seem to justify giving up my time for the two latter leagues when hockey is on.

As I write this, Aroldis Chapman just gave up a two-run homerun, and it appears this baseball game will stretch late into the night. I can't stay up and read all of Twitter's play-by-play analysts send out the same tweets about the game for the next six hours. I have to be at work tomorrow, I have a radio show to prepare for, and I'll be calling hockey games all weekend. Sorry, baseball, but you lost me at the start of November.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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