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The NHL drives me crazy December 17, 2007

Posted by Amy in sports.
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So, this is a slightly dated topic, but I was just reading Mike Heika’s latest Dallas Morning News newsletter on the Stars & it got me all annoyed again about the NHL scheduling change.

If you don’t know, the NHL recently finally approved changing their current, absurdly moronic scheduling format, which has each team playing their division rivals eight times a year & rotating with the opposite conference on a three-year cycle. For example, the Stars play every team in the Northeast division at home this year & will visit every team in Atlantic. They do not see the Southeast at all, which means Stars fans won’t see NHL goals leader Ilya Kovalchuk or NHL points leader Vinny Lecavalier or human highlight reel Alexander Ovechkin.

In the NHL’s twisted logic, playing each division-mate eight times a year will build rivalry &, if all goes well, a bitter angry hatred that will drive fans to the arena to root against the hated Coyotes for the 50,000th time, when instead, it built general raging apathy that willed fans to stay home for the Coyotes & wait for that one time a year the Maple Leafs roll into town to pay for their overpriced ticket.

In this format, Sidney Crosby, the “Next One,” the man who will supposedly save the NHL, will visit each city in the Western Conference just once every three years. Makes plenty of sense to me.

Up until now, any attempt to change this format, which is clearly detrimental to the overall health of an increasingly irrelevant league, has been shot down by a few teams in the Eastern Conference. And why not? Of course, the New York Islanders like the way the schedule is now. They get Crosby in their arena four times a year. That’s four guaranteed sellouts for what is otherwise the “other team” in NYC. Also, keep in mind, teams in the East have alarmingly lighter travel than teams in the West. While Dallas has to make a total of 12 stops in Southern California each season to play their division-mates LA, SJ and Anaheim, Boston made their only trip out of their time zone in October.

My problem with this–besides that my team, the Stars, is probably the team that gets screwed the most in this situation–has always been that, as a fan of the game, it just killed me to see the league completely ignore what is, to most of us, an extremely obvious problem. Sure, the teams in the East probably don’t want to vote for a change. The league shouldn’t have given them the choice!

In the best interest of the league, Gary Bettman should have said, a long long time ago, sorry, Eastern teams, we’re going to do it this way. Yes it sucks that you don’t have a say in the matter, but for a league that is in the position we are in, we really don’t have the luxury of democracy.

But clearly, Bettman would never do that, because again, that would have been in the best interest of hockey.

So, this year, many teams actually did sort of come to their senses & approved a slight change to the schedule. In the new format, every team will play every other team at least once every year (home or away). The divisional games have been knocked down to 24 (six times each). While this is a vast improvement, Crosby still won’t be making an appearance in every market every year.

I guess it’s just as well. If this league ever did too much to better itself, I might start to doubt that Gary Bettman doesn’t know what the hell he is doing.

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