March 09, 2013

Could NHL Viably Reduce Schedule To 70 Games?


This is Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. The last time the NHL had a 70 game season, 1966-67, these two Blackhawks dominated the league. Hull posted a league leading 52 goals, and finished with 80 points. Mikita set a new NHL record with 97 points, thanks to a second-best 35 goals and league leading 62 assists. Chicago's Kenny Wharram finished 3rd in the NHL with 31 goals while defenseman Pierre Pilote, a three time Norris Trophy winner in the 60s, was dominant as well.

Do you think the NHL could ever return to a 70 game schedule? Would it be economically viable? Could it be best for the NHL product?

That's the focus of a recent New York Post article by Larry Brooks. Brooks revealed some pretty staggering numbers about the NHL economic picture post-lockout:
The NHL recently informed the NHLPA the projected hockey-related revenue (HRR) for this truncated season will reach $2.4 billion, a staggering number with implications far beyond the obvious that the league essentially suffered no damage by locking out the players for more than three months.

Remember: HRR for 2011-12 hit a record $3.3 billion. That was for a 1,230-game regular-season, plus playoffs, preseason and special events — including the Winter Classic and All-Star festivities.

This $2.4 billion projection is for a 720-game regular season plus the playoffs. Thus, the NHL expects to generate 72.7 percent of last year’s revenue in 58.5 percent of the season — and without the benefits reaped from the money-printing outdoor game
Brooks' findings sure scream, "What lockout?" Here's the full story.

Brooks goes on to campaign for a 70 game season, suggesting lost gate revenues would be made up with old Economics 101 theory of less supply increases demand.

The NHL will never do it, but it would be nice. Reducing the schedule would make for a better product on the ice. More time off would allow for better rest and practice time, therefore increasing the quality of the product. Reducing the sked by 12 would make the remaining games more of an event. It would be easier to include Olympic and World Cup breaks mid-season too.

The other side of the story will point to the very tangible 360 fewer games means 360 fewer nights of gate receipts. And of course 50% of whatever those gate receipts go directly to the players. So it would be a tough sell.

But I believe this may very well be a classic case of less is more. Increased quality of games could and a bit of product scarcity could drive up the bidding on the TV contracts, off-setting some of the lost gate receipts. In some markets the lost gate receipts would be coming at the slowest time of year (October) anyway. And scarcity, in theory, should drive up cost, allowing for ticket price increases.

There are far smarter people than me or even Larry Brooks who could probably make a well informed case for reducing the schedule. It would be interesting to know if the NHL and NHLPA would ever consider such a proposition.

Would you be in favor of reducing the regular season schedule to 70 games? Would the players support it? Would you as a fan be in favor of it?

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