DKM Hockey Podcast

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Weekend Home Game Schedule: NHL Conspiracy?

The Problem

A few months ago, my dad had an opportunity through his work to score us a foursome of Blue Jackets tickets. My dad is a very casual hockey fan who lives out of town and enjoys coming to a game or two each year; but mostly he looks at it as a reason to take a weekend visit to Columbus. Surveying the home game schedule to select the best option, I noticed that after the first weekend in February (versus Florida), the Jackets would only be in town for one Saturday game the remainder of the season (the first weekend of March, also versus Florida).

This schedule would leave the ice at Nationwide Arena empty for the last six Saturdays in the season! Could this be right?! Was this part of the NHL's greater conspiracy to doom our beloved Blue Jackets with low attendance and [gasp] Tuesday night games?! (The Jackets will enjoy home ice for the last six consecutive Tuesdays of the season.) Or was this simply part of the league's greater overall mission to doom itself entirely? The people who quietly brought you NHL hockey in between fishing and ultimate fighting on Versus give you: crazy difficult games to attend if you work, travel, have a family or are any sort of productive citizen.

The Results

To try to answer this mystery, I did something that neither my DKM Hockey comrades nor I do often: research. Using the weekend game schedules since the Olympic break -- the home stretch, if you will (no pun intended) -- I totaled the number of home games by team for Friday, Saturday and Sunday dates. (Schedule data courtesy of TSN, a cable sports network that actually acknowledges the existence of the game.) Here is a colorfully-formatted table of the results:

Conditional Formatting Provided by Microsoft Excel

For those of you who a) don't want to have to sift though a data table; b) are color blind; c) dislike integers; or d) enjoy my long-winded ramblings; here are some of my observations...

  • In terms of the coveted Saturday games -- assuming those are most easily attended for those who travel and/or make the game more of an event -- the Blue Jackets are certainly on the low end....we had only one game, while the league average is two-and-a-half. But three teams (Anaheim, Calgary and Detroit) had zero Saturday home games; while four others (Buffalo, Chicago, NY Rangers and Ottawa) also had just one. Not exactly the red-headed step-children of the NHL.
  • What the Blue Jackets lacked in Saturday home games was somewhat made up for on Friday nights. The same was true for the teams with no Saturday home games....they each played at least three Friday night specials. The teams with only one Saturday game made them up hosting on Fridays and/or Sundays.
  • Ten teams in the NHL -- that's a third of the league -- had fewer weekend games than Columbus. Looking at the list, some of the giants are included: Boston, Montreal, NY Rangers, Toronto.

The Conclusion

What you really need to know is this: I've been looking at these numbers long enough to go cross-eyed. No, sorry, what you need to know is that Columbus' weekend schedule -- while certainly not ideal -- is not the worst. (Or "the wurst," in the language of DKM's fictitious German biathlete.) Sorry, conspiracy theorists, "Rule 614" is not in effect here.

Columbus, being among the smaller markets and newer franchises and non-tranditional "hockey towns," doesn't have the same population or well-established fan base to sustain weekday games like the Bostons and Montreals and New Yorks and Torontos of the league. Nobody could argue that. In this city and with this team, maybe we need the weekend games more than others do. But is it the NHL's responsibility to throw us a bone in the scheduling department to help us overcome the odds; or is it the team's own duty to put the right product on the ice to build its fan base, its attendance and its success?

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