Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The NHL's absurd preseason schedule

But why can’t we dispense with maybe half of the NHL’s pre-season games?

Revenue, I know. But maybe if fans stopped showing up to pre-season games after the fourth or fifth one, the owners would be willing to get the real party started.

There are 111 NHL pre-season games this year, an average of 7.4 per team. That’s 4,440 man games. Is that really necessary to get a player prepared for the regular season?
Not only are there too many preseason games, but the schedules some teams have are completely insane. Honestly, you won't believe what teams like Florida and the Islanders are enduring this week.

Perhaps you've heard of back-to-back games, and the strain they can put on NHL rosters during the regular season, but how about six games, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back?

In four different cities, no less.

Florida played in Calgary last night, plays in Edmonton tonight and tomorrow, goes back to Calgary for a game on Friday, flies to Summerside, Prince Edward Island, for a game against the Islanders on Saturday and then heads back to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Sunday.

It's very, very hard to believe that's an actual schedule for a professional hockey team, but there it is.

The Islanders, meanwhile, have seven preseason games sprinkled across North America, beginning last night with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins in Moncton. Then tomorrow they're 1,700 kilometres away in London, Ont., and on Saturday head back to the Maritimes for that game against Florida.

Then they're in Long Island, New Jersey, Boston and Sunrise, Fla., in a span of six days next week.

Even the Rangers, who have to catch a flight to Europe to play two exhibition games in Switzerland next Tuesday and Wednesday, are in the midst of a string of six preseason games in a week.

Utter nonsense. Don't be surprised if the injury parade we've seen so far in training camp continues right up until the season starts, because these guys are going to be burnt out by the opening faceoff.



At 2:13 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger Quain said...

One counter point to this, at least on the Oilers side of the ledger, is that you're not looking at just one NHL team out there, you're looking at nearly two per actual team. I'm not certain the Oilers suited up anyone for Tuesday's game that played on Monday so it's not exactly a huge strain on the players and it provides a good opportunity for some kids to play.

With that said, I don't disagree that preseason either needs to see a reduced game load, or get spread out a bit longer.

At 2:17 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger Josh said...

I am really surprised that this isn't something that's collectively bargained. You'd think it would be spelled out in the CBA, how many exhibition games each team will play.

But no - you're saying that some teams will play more exhibition games than others? That's very surprising.

At 2:20 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

Yeah, most teams have are divided into two teams, so it's just the staff that is travelling to every city, every day. The two teams travel seperately.

Montreal, for example, plays 3 games in 3 nights in Halifax, Roberval, and Detroit to open it up; and 6 games in 7 nights overall. The same team did play the Halifax and Roberval games, while the other guys stayed in Montreal and then travelled to Detroit. The reason the same team played both games so far is because the Kostitsyn brothers and Swiss prospect Yannick Weber haven't got their US work visas yet, so they all got put on the same team and played back-to-back nights in Canada.

Still ridiculous how many games, and how quickly it all happens.

At 2:23 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger saskhab said...

I am really surprised that this isn't something that's collectively bargained. You'd think it would be spelled out in the CBA, how many exhibition games each team will play.

But no - you're saying that some teams will play more exhibition games than others? That's very surprising.

Josh, it is collectively bargained, just not standardized. The new CBA reduced the training camp/preseason time frame, and capped the maximum amount of exhibition games per team at 9. Also negotiated was that if a team played 9 exhibition games, they couldn't hold an intersquad game.

At 3:24 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger James said...

It's true that most teams do have multiple different "teams", if you will, doing pre-season games. To echo what saskhab said about Montreal, I know that Detroit split into two teams for its annual Red and White exhibition game last night, called Team Howe and Team Lindsay. They are keeping these two teams separated and in tact for alternating the pre-season schedule, before paring the roster down with three pre-season games left to go.

At 3:29 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous Keith said...

Yup, that's pretty much it. While some teams, i.e. the Flames, play as many as 7 games, really, no player is likely to participate in more than four. Is four games per player really that big a burden?

At 3:30 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm sick of being forced to pay full price for pre-season games which mean nothing. $89.50/ticket at MSG...keep in mind the same tickets were $65 the first year after the lockout.

At 3:40 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Hundreds of players played five, six or seven preseason games last year. Is this time going to be different?

At 3:48 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Aside from the strain on the players (and staff), does anyone believe this is an effective preparation for the season? I'd bet that a team that played 1-3 exhibition games and spent the rest of its time practicing (in one city) would come out of the gate well ahead of the nine gamers.

They might get benefits from this all year; there certainly isn't time to practice during the season.

This is taking advantage of off-season conditioning programs to pick up some extra cash. I'm amazed the fans go for it; exhibition games bore the hell out of me. I guess they take full advantage of neutral sites and season ticket holders.

At 3:57 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All those games to prove what, exactly?

Most jobs are decided before camp even opens. Every once in a while somebody surprises and they keep him around for 9 games before sending him back to junior. Or the guy lasts a week, goes -7, and gets punted back to the AHL.

Total. Farce.

At 4:11 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous beingbobbyorr said...

does anyone believe this is an effective preparation for the season?

Only the most superficial fan can fail to realize that preseason games are for measuring your prospects against a quasi-NHL caliber of competition, and to demonstrate to them the benchmarks they have to meet to make it in the league.

If you want the home team to be good, you have to invest in their future, and that means cracking open the wallet for pre-season games. I have no problem paying real money to get a look-see at the 18-22 year-olds the club is staking it's future on.

At 4:12 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous beingbobbyorr said...

Total. Farce.

Key. To. His. Development.

At 5:43 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous Ryan said...

I don't know your situation Anonymous', how you're being forced to pay full price for preseason tickets, but if there's any kind of blackmail, physical threat, or extortion involved, you should go to the police. That's not legal.

Maybe there should be a rule allowing a player to refuse to play two exhibition games in two nights. I don't know how much difference it would make, though. Most prospects will jump at the chance to play, and most teams won't risk their legit NHLers that way.

At 6:00 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger toqueboy said...

ummm...i think this is a pretty narrow view of 'games played' and doesn't take 'game situation evaluation' into account. macT for one loves the oiler's current pre season.

the nfl has a ridiculous amount of pre season games. soccer has friendlies, golf has international tournaments like the president and ryder cup...all of these are to showcase the sport to 'foreign' markets and create development opportunities...our preseason length isn't the issue

the real issue is that teams, again like the oilers, are charging regular season prices to see guys who will play in the echl and a beer costs 7.75. at what point will the nhl realize that they've priced families out of hockey. when i look at the baseball schedule or wwe, or even my 50 hour work week, i don't have much sympathy for someone complaining about 2 or 3 too many games.

At 6:15 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger this space for rent said...

I think beingbobbyorr is right, honestly. The benefit of these pre-season games is to give these kids a taste of what it's like to play in the NHL without banking your season on it, and the fans a taste of what the team's up-and-coming talent can do. And hey, if they make a little money off of it, what's the harm in that? Nobody's making you buy these tickets, dude. I for one would like to see what these lineups look like, so sure, I'll buy preseason tickets (and no, mine aren't anywhere close to $89.50. They're less than half that.)

At 6:16 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger MB said...

Ryan - I assume anonymous is a season ticket holder. I'm a Canuck STH and you have to take the 4 pre-season games as part of your package at full cost, you have no choice in the matter. I presume the other 29 teams have the exact same requirement as part of their STH package. I don't really care all that much, I give mine to friends with kids that would otherwise never get to a game in the lower bowl and then just charge that much extra on the games I resell on the team ticket reseller site to make up for the money spent on the 4 pre-season games. Truth be told, I would rather not buy the pre-season games at all but I want the season tickets, so ...

At 6:30 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

I'm a Canuck STH and you have to take the 4 pre-season games as part of your package at full cost, you have no choice in the matter.

Ditto in Anaheim (though I'm not a STH, I do buy from one).

At 7:02 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all teams charge full price for pre-season games. I know in DC, they're half price as part of the season ticket package.

At 7:05 p.m., September 24, 2008, Blogger Shane Giroux said...

"(though I'm not a STH, I do buy from one)."

Yeah...but do you play one on tv?

At 11:35 p.m., September 24, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Key to Development? No way.

Pick a team. Any team. I can tell you with nearly 100% confidence who 12 of the FWs and 6 of the Dmen will be. And definitely who the 2 goalies will be.

Throw everybody else's name in a hat. You pick a name. I pick a name. Each has about as good a chance as the other of making the team. And then getting sent down before Halloween because the team realizes the guy can't hack it in real NHL games.

Compare that to the number of guys who are sent packing in pre-season. Put in a half-year in the AHL. And get called up for keeps in the middle of the year.

If a guy's development hinges on 4 games against quasi-NHL competition, he is what's known as a bust .

At 10:15 a.m., September 25, 2008, Anonymous er said...


Yes I am a Ranger season ticket holder obviously. While I enjoy seeing "highly-touted" Ranger prospects stink it up (ie. bobby sanguinetti), I'd rather not pay full price ($89.50) for a half-full MSG. Let me tell you that the market price for these preseason games is around $25 for pretty good seats (ie not section 300 or 400). How do I know this? I just sold my tix on ebay for saturday vs. NJ for that price.

The prices are painful enough for the regular season...I just wish Jim Dolan would show us some mercy with the pre-season.


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