It’s business as usual around the NHL nowadays, but a mere six months ago today, the infamous NHL lockout ended, bringing back the league in time for the 2013 season. With only four months to play a regular season, the league crunched down the regular 82 game schedule into a compact 48-game alternative. Many things changed, but after it was all said and done, a question surfaced: was this shorter season better?
Just over half a year ago, all fans were united into one group, no matter what team they cheered for. Flying their colors turned into hoping for an end to the lockout, and they got their wish on January 19, where the Blackhawks, among others, took to the ice for the first game of the regular season.
With the compact schedule, there was no inter-conference play, and each team played 3 games against teams in their own conference, and 5 games against divisional opponents. This 48-game schedule commenced on Jan. 19th, and came to a close on April 28th, where the Boston Bruins played a postponed match against the Ottawa Senators, a total of 99 days.
There is no doubt that this pint-size season created a sense of urgency from the season opener, something missing in years with the regular 82-game schedule. Teams that started weak hurt themselves tenfold more, and this made for exciting, emotional hockey, even on day one. We saw the Detroit Red Wings win their last four games to make it to the post season, the Columbus Blue Jackets come just short after a revival halfway through the year, and the Chicago Blackhawks run wire-to-wire as the best team in the National Hockey League.
The league experienced more publicity than ever before, pulling in all kinds of audience records during the playoffs, and grew their fanbase even more after tweets from stars like LeBron James and Justin Beiber.
In 2013, hockey broke away from the monotonic, tell-me-when-its-over regular season, into an exciting fast paced alternative. The NHL and it’s teams may have lost potential revenue with only a little more than half the regular amount of games played, but they became the sport to watch this season. Fans who waited 9 long months for their teams to hit the ice again cheered even louder, and made basketball, football, and baseball fans alike take note. A new passion burned, not only in the hearts of the fans, but the players as well, making hockey even more exciting each and every game.
If the NHL switched to a similar schedule permanently, they could bottle this excitement, and unleash it every year. The NHL’s ratings would soar season after season, and teams and players would gain an even bigger following. Three months is a long time to wait for some hockey fans, so when that time nearly triples in between seasons, they will be very relieved to see their favorite team hit the ice again.
The league would have to take a look at including inter-conference play among other things, but the general idea is in place; keep teams fighting for every win, or point, because they will not have as many opportunities as before.
In 2013, hockey mattered again. Fans were entertained more than they ever have before, and even more people tuned in than ever before as well. Hockey was at it’s best, and with a shorter season every year, it could stay that way.
What do you think?
As always, your comments are welcome below.
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