The Chicago Blackhawks get much of their rivalry with the St. Louis Blues out of the way early during the 2018-19 season, which isn’t nearly as odd as the specific day many of those games are being played on
The 2018-19 NHL season sees the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues squaring off five times, with four of those instances coming in the year’s first two months. That alone is a little unfortunate, as it doesn’t leave some of those dog days of the season with more fun, watchable matchups.
But that’s sometimes just how the schedule plays out. And it certainly makes October interesting, as a Blackhawks team looking to find its identity will face a strong-looking Blues outfit three times before the month is out.
Just looking at the days of these games, however, should fill fans with even more discouragement. The Oct. 6, Oct. 13 and Oct. 27 bouts all take place on a Saturday — AKA high time for college football and essentially nothing else.
The NHL struggles going against pretty much any other big-name entity in the United States, and NCAA football is unlikely to be an exception. Beyond that, Saturday nights just aren’t well situated for people to show a lot of concern about a regular-season sporting event.
Even worse, beyond that opening-week tilt on Oct. 6, early-season games just don’t seem to draw as many eyes in the NHL. If social media is any indication, after the first week or so of action, many fans tend to tune out for a while as an overload of sports — led by football — flows during the fall.
Why the NHL would push Blackhawks-Blues to a Saturday evening spot three times in the month of October is beyond me. Sure, you’ll get some good viewership in bars. But that’s really about it.
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For example, a Saturday, May 12, Stanley Cup Playoffs game last season between Vegas and Winnipeg — admittedly not the sexiest matchup ever, but still a postseason contest featuring two upstarts — garnered a 0.8 rating share on NBC. The Chicago Blackhawks averaged a 2.36 television rating last season, which actually was down 29 percent from the previous campaign.
I guess you could make the argument Blackhawks fans will flock to a game at any time, which is fine. But why not maximize potential here? Why not schedule more games during the week (the last two Blackhawks-Blues games in this season series are both on a Wednesday). People are more likely to be tuned into their televisions on a weekday night than a Saturday night, in general.
This might be a total nitpick, but it just seems like a waste to throw a nice rivalry game — even if the Blackhawks are in a down period — out on a Saturday night three times in a month. Not only are you likely lessening your viewership, you’re also oversaturating the market with one particular game.
Of course, non-Blackhawks fans will point to the Winter Classic for a similar argument with that last point. The NHL really just can’t win with its scheduling.