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June 1st

It will forever irk me that we are playing for the Stanley Cup in June.

June is summer, especially way up in northern Canada where I'm from. We want to be in the park enjoying the warmth of the sun on our skin, the smells and colours of the flowers and the tastes of gelato. The lawn needs mowing, but no, I have to watch a hockey game.

Truth be told I will watch hockey any time of year - no matter how bad the ice is and therefore how unbearable the games may be - but it does not make it right. The NHL really should start it's season earlier, say in mid September. That way we could be done by the end of May. And we would not have to put with all those half-hearted pre-season games that they charge full price for. Neither the fans nor the coaches nor the players would be upset about dropping those pre-season games and shortening training camp as a whole.

The reason we do not start the season in September is because American owners and television interests don't want it. I've seen it suggested that if they could, some American owners would start the season even later. Why? Well that way they don't have to compete for the sporting dollar with the World Series or the start of the NFL season.

Of course, we could have a 70 game season. Start October 1st, end May 31st. Spread out the games and travel a bit more. Let the players recover more. The games will be better. The better the games the more interest in them. Bigger television ratings. Better playoff races. But, of course, the drawback is obvious. Less games equals less tickets sold and less revenue. This is a still a league very much dependent on ticket revenue.

Of course, it could be argued that a spread-out and truncated season should see healthier players and that has huge economic benefit to the owners. After all, the owners spend a lot of money on players as their number one assets. Shouldn't they want them to be on the ice rather than in the medical room?

Oddly enough, continued expansion and talk of expanding the playoff pool will likely see the league adopt an earlier start to the season at some point. Logistically, it will just have to. If they have some sort of wildcard playoff to get into the regular playoffs or whatever they dream up, they will have to allow more time. There's no chance of shortening the schedule, but at the same time nobody wants to see hockey in July.


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