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Old 12-11-2006, 06:50 PM   #536
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Lakewood,Colo
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Default Schedule hurts fans, players and the league

Another perspective on this train wreck bettman calls scheduling, nothing like throwing the same teams in a closet over and over and over. (Boring!) IMO

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. The Carolina Hurricanes departed Raleigh-Durham International Airport last week and flew out of the Eastern time zone for the first time in the 2006-07 season.

It will be one of just two trips away from the East Coast this season (the second will be to Minnesota in February, the last leg of a three-game road trip). The Hurricanes will play four games during this nine-day trip, from the mountains of Colorado to wildly underrated Vancouver.

Ten Western Conference teams will not see Eric Staal flourish in his third NHL season, marvel at Cam Ward's athletic ability or count the minutes the seemingly ageless Rod Brind'Amour spends on the ice each night.

Here in North Carolina, fans will not have the chance to view NHL stars like Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Smyth, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Miikka Kiprusoff up close. Doug Weight will not make a return to Carolina, nor will the Hurricanes make a trip to St. Louis.

This is a tragedy. And it's a major hurdle in reestablishing the NHL as one of the four major sports leagues in the United States.

The NHL has gotten so much right after getting so much wrong during the year-long lockout that killed the 2004-05 season. The game has not been this exciting in recent memory, young stars are seemingly growing on trees and the league's marketing attempts have reached out to young audiences.

But in making a decision, post-lockout, to schedule eight games against divisional rivals each season and four games against each conference opponent, the league created a mess.

That scheduling arrangement, intended to create and enhance geographic rivalries, left just 10 games to be played against teams in the opposing conference.

So each season, each of the 30 NHL teams will not play any games against five other NHL teams. How does this make sense?

The purpose of playing the season is to prepare yourself for a run at the Stanley Cup. Does playing eight games against Florida do that for Carolina? Does it do anything other than insure less-than-capacity crowds by the end of the season, when fans should be gearing up for the Stanley Cup playoffs but instead are asking, "Them? Again?"

There is simply no reason from financial to competitive to because someone said so to continue this insane two-year experiment in scheduling.

The owners, meeting this week in Florida, are expected to discuss this issue. That's a start, though no one should leave the room until commissioner Gary Bettman has been told how to proceed.

Every team should play every other team twice, once at home and once on the road. Six games is plenty to play against divisional rivals.

That leaves 28 games in the 82-game NHL schedule. If each team plays their remaining conference opponents at home and away, it leaves eight games. Rotating the games among the 10 conference opponents will work.

It's not perfect. But it's better than what we have.
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