NHL Schedule: League's Truncated Season Will Jeopardize Its Product

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Following the NHL Board of Governors meeting, Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League addresses the media at the Westin Times Square on December 5, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hockey is not a game meant to be spaced out, played once a week like football. But nor is it a game designed to be compressed into a three-month season.

But it seems as if the NHL's top officials disagree.

This from ESPN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday:

The NHL is solely targeting Jan. 19 as a start date to a 48-game regular season, a source told ESPN.com Tuesday...The league had also looked at playing 50 games with a Jan. 15 start date but is no longer considering that option, the source said, given the time constraints posed by the ratification process.

Although it's understandable that the league wants to play as many games as possible before beginning its beloved postseason, the result will be jeopardizing the product out on the ice.

NHL players, coaches and fans have become accustomed to the 82-game schedule over the years, and by Jan. 19 last year, most teams had already played roughly 45 games. So now, the league is asking its players, some of which have played overseas and in various other leagues throughout the fall and winter, to play 48 (instead of 37) games down the stretch.

That's nearly 30 percent more games over that period of time. 

NBA fans watched a similar situation unfold last year, as the league went forth with a 66-game schedule following its 2011 lockout. The shortened schedule resulted in many teams playing on back-to-back-to-back nights on some occasions, no doubt hurting the regular-season product.

Compensating for lost time with quantity rather than quality is not the answer.

It's a fact: Three months have been wasted. Therefore three months of quality hockey have been wasted. You can't recover what's lost by hurrying things up and adding more games. 

I understand the financial aspects and the need to give all 30 teams a fair shot at qualifying for the postseason following a lengthy lockout. But considering the NHL's postseason is among the longest in any sport, easily spanning two months, squeezing in 48 games beforehand is only guaranteeing more, not better hockey. 

The playoffs will be here before we know it, but the 2013 regular season that precedes them will be nothing more than a forgettable blur.

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