James Mirtle of The Athletic wrote last week that the NHL might just permanently switch to a new calendar as a result of Covid-19 screwing the end of the 2019-20 season.
The NHL hasn't made anything official yet, but it's likely that the first "play-in" best of 5 round would start the last week of July or the first week of August.
The actual, normal playoffs would then begin in mid-August.
The Stanley Cup would be awarded by the first week of October on this schedule. Then an off-season would begin that lasted until early December when training camps re-opened.
Next year will begin with the Winter Classic in Minnesota on January first, followed by an 82 game full season that would have the hockey season run until the end of August.
When you break it down like that it's hard to imagine the NHL getting back the calendar that we all grew up with. The season that starts in October and ends in June. The league will never agree to chop off a chunk of games to shift back. There will have to be some serious scheduling restraints for the next several years in order to get back to a traditional calendar. Something like no bye weeks, no all-star breaks, condensed schedule, and under no circumstances whatsoever would there be Olympic participation. Mirtle calls a potential January to August/September season the "new normal". Now, I don't really believe that. I don't think the NHLPA would be okay with that schedule indefinitely. There's been too much money invested in cottages all over Canada and private islands in Scandanavia for the players just forfeit their summers forever. The NHL CBA with the players ends after the 2021-22 season. That seams like a time when the reset button would be pressed with a work stoppage.
Having said ALL of that...there are plenty of good reasons to switch to this proposed new calendar.
No More Hyphens
Sometimes when I am remembering old seasons I get confused on what happened when. Was that in 1996 or 97? Were they Champs in 2001 or 2000? It's annoying. Switching to a season that takes places within one year...sign me up for that. 2021 Cup Champs...has a ring to it.
Never Having To Compete With Football Or MLB Playoffs
Football is King in America and always will be. The truth of the matter is that MAC-tion will have higher ratings than a Rivalry Night in the NHL on NBC if they're both being played on a Wednesday. Forget about games going up against baseball playoffs or having games on a Saturday or Sunday in the Fall. Nobody sees those games. Artemi Panarin was doing INCREDIBLE things right out of the gate in 2015-16(there's that fucking hyphen again, I couldn't remember when his rookie year was) and nobody even knew he existed because the Cubs made a run to the NLCS. Kicking off every season on New Year's Day turns the opening of the season into a festival.
Secondary Ticket Market
Anyone who has ever had season tickets will tell you that it is tough to get good prices or sometimes get any sales at all before Thanksgiving. Typically that is when people start buying tickets as Christmas gifts or when dad's want to do something for their shit kid home from college who has been gone for so long that the dad forgot his son was a shit head. Casual fans don't get into hockey mode until the winter.
Having Stuff On TV Deep Into The Summer
Anyone who has ever been to the West Coast can relate. Basically all of their sports are over no later than 10pm local. The last game...done. If you're at a bar and there's nothing on TV...what do you do? Talk to people? Fuck that. That is often times what summer drinking is like. You have to talk a lot more because there aren't a ton of distractions. Even if basball is on there so much lag time between action that you're forced to talk a lot. It stinks. I want to be around people, but only looking at the TV. We are chat on commercial breaks or in between whistles. And when I say chat I mean that is when I try to get the bartender to bring me another round.
Only Show In Town
I watched FOUR Bundesliga games this weekend. One of them was on the Spanish Channel. That is how desperate I am for live sports. I watched a German game with Spanish broadcasters. Hockey has always been niche, but part of that is because they're playing their entire season lined up with the NBA and 60% of the season going up against football, and the stretch run playoff chase goes up against March Madness. There might be an opportunity to bring in new fans, fans that start watching out of desperation or boredom, but stay because they get a taste and once you get a real taste of hockey you never leave. There are a TON of sports fans out there who basically ignore hockey. Not because they don't like sports, but because they have other more familiar options. I bet if those fans had a choice between a regular season game between the Dodgers and the Padres or a playoff hockey game in August they'd choose hockey.
How many kids go to bed early before a playoff game ends because they have school the next day? How many kids can't go to weekday games because they have school or they have their own practices/games. You put all the most important games in June/July/August when kids are on summer break and you might attract a whole new generation of fans. Maybe even have a summer hours start time for East Coast games. Start one playoff game every Friday at like 4pm EST or something. That'd be incredible. Adults take the afternoon off with summer hours and kids gear up for a double header. That's a plan
Close your eyes. It's July. It's 97 degrees in the shade. The sun is beating down on you. You walk into a movie theater and you're BLASTED with AC. It's such a temperature difference from the outside air that you get goosebumps when you walk in. That is a GREAT feeling. No imagine that same feeling walking into the United Center for a Saturday afternoon playoff game. You'll have goosebumps on your goosebumps. You're out of the heat, and you've got 200ft of ice in front of you for the next 3 hours. It'd be incredible. You walk out and it's the golden hour.
I am not sure which I'd like better because I use hockey to get me through the winter, but on paper there are plenty of reasons to get on board with this theoretical new calendar.