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Steigerwald: Here’s How to Start Stanley Cup Playoffs in March

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By Français : Inconnu English: Unknown [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The best tournament in North American sports, the Stanley Cup playoffs, is about to begin. Too bad it’s at least a month too late.

Although the hideous weather we’ve been having this “spring” feels like hockey weather, the tournament should have started in March when it actually was still winter.

How do you do that?

By starting the season in September instead of October. And please stop with the stuff about it being crazy or stupid to try to compete with the NFL and college football.

Opening the season on October 4th isn’t competing with football?

And don’t worry about March Madness. The ratings for that aren’t all that great and there are a lot more games in the hockey tournament and they’re better.

Nothing is dumber than having ice hockey’s best games played in the middle of June.

Nothing.

Although playing baseball’s championship after Halloween is close. So is trying to play baseball on March 29th in Detroit, but I digress.

Start the NHL season in September. Finish the regular season no later than the first week of March. It ain’t that tough.

The NHL season (if you don’t count the one game played Sunday) began on October 4th and ended on April 7th. The Penguins played 82 games in 186 days. That’s a game every 2.26 days.

Teams average about 13 games per month.

If they had started on the  10th and and played 11 games in September, they could have finished the season by March 4th by playing one extra game in October and February and two extra games in January.

Would that really have been that much tougher on the players?

And what about all of those back-to-back  games? The Penguins went back-to-back 19 times. But when they went back-to-back they had to travel in between games.

That’s dumb.

The NHL should learn from baseball and stay in town for a while. How about scheduling three game series in the regular season?

Friday and Saturday night in Columbus and Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday, October 11th the Penguins played the Capitals in Washington. They left after the game for Tampa where they played the next night. Probably arrived at their hotel at around three o’clock in the morning.

They flew to Pittsburgh after the game with Tampa and probably got home around 4:00 Friday morning. They played a home game against the Florida Panthers Saturday night.

Picture the Pirates going to Cincinnati for one game and immediately leaving to play one game in Miami. It’s dumb.

Baseball figured out the idea of staying in town for more than one game 120 years ago.

The NHL plays half as many games as Major League Baseball, but when two teams play each other on back to back nights, they do it in different cities. And they’re playing HOCKEY not baseball.

The Penguins had a home and home against the Buffalo Sabres on December first and second.

Why not play both games in Buffalo?

And wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for the Penguins, instead of playing the Capitals, Lightning and Panthers in three cities over four days, to play a three game series with the Capitals – two in D.C. and one in Pittsburgh?

It would be a lot less wear and tear on the players and playing consecutive games against the same opponent can create a lot of extra interest and intrigue.

How much more fun is it when a baseball team stays in town for another game on Saturday after a bench clearing brawl on Friday?

On Tuesday, January 2nd, the Penguins played the Flyers in Philadelphia. They came home to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and went back on the road to play the Islanders on Friday. Wouldn’t a three game series with the Flyers have made a lot more sense and been a lot more interesting?

The story lines created by multiple games against each other are a huge part of playoff hockey’s excitement.

Playing three with the Flyers over four days would stir the rivalry pot. Serious mayhem potential.

The Penguins play four games against teams in their division. A few  more games could be packed into each month if, when two of the three games are played over four nights, two are in the same city. You might be able start the playoffs on the first of March.

Last season’s playoffs lasted 61 days.

How about playing the Stanley Cup Final in late April?

I know. This all sounds way too far fetched. Maybe even crazy or dumb.

Did I mention that nothing in sports is dumber than playing the best ice hockey games in the world’s best ice hockey tournament in the middle of  June?

Nothing.

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John has over 40 years experience doing just about everything you can do in Pittsburgh sports, including work at KDKA (TV and Radio), WTAE, the Tribune-Review and many more. Author of Just Watch The Game. Columnist and opinion writer here and at Pittsburgh Sports Now. You can regularly find John on Twitter and Facebook.

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