NHL's Late-Summer Return Could Spark Radical Schedule Change
The NHL season under the current proposal would resume playing in July or August, and "playing games deep into the summer could actually become the league’s new normal,” according to James Mirtle of THE ATHLETIC. There are "two key reasons for that, one practical and one business-related." The practical concern is that "once you've played one season into October, how then do you get back on a September-to-June schedule?" If the '20-21 season begins Jan. 1 and includes a full 82 games and playoffs, the "earliest it could plausibly conclude would be sometime in August." There also is a "strong business case for many NHL teams to move most of their fall games." In many U.S. markets, ticket sales and TV ratings "pick up considerably in the late winter and early spring." Hockey, in "many of the NHL's American markets, sometimes takes a back seat" and major networks are "less interested in airing hockey games in the fall." Such a "radical scheduling change will drive hockey purists in Canada and parts of hockey’s traditional fan base in the U.S. wild," but it "could well be one shift that [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman and Co. get behind." It is "likely the league would have wide support from the governors for pushing the schedule back, given the revenue boost it could provide" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/3).
ON BOARD: Several NHL GMs reacted to the league's proposed 24-team playoff format:
- Maple Leafs' Kyle Dubas: "There are going to be a lot of interesting results in this qualifying round, just given the nature of things and the delay between when teams last played and different (health-related) changes to the roster."
- Oilers' Ken Holland: "They've obviously put a ton of thought into it. I think that is fair for all the teams."
- Jets' Kevin Cheveldayoff: "It just really speaks to just the level of attention to detail and thought that went into this whole process. We're excited we have an opportunity to hopefully continue playing."
- Blue Jackets' Jarmo Kekalainen: "They didn't just slam it on our face. They listened, they gathered the information and then they made the decision. We have to respect that" (CP, 6/2).