Schedule Changes Next Year

As our friend CreedFeed alluded to in the previous post, the AHL has announced some schedule changes that will go into effect starting next season.

The highlights of the plan are:

-  Playing a 76 game schedule instead of an 80 game schedule
- Extending the regular season by one week
- Removing all four-games-in-five-nights stretches from the schedule
- Opening round of the playoffs is a best of 5 series

Commissioner David Andrews had an open letter to AHL fans published today, and I’ll cherry-pick a few quotes…

“As our league has grown and our game has become faster and more physical, the wear and tear on our players from the frequency of games and travel has begun to affect player development and at times the quality of competition.”

 
These steps are intended to provide a safer environment for our players through increased rest and recovery time, and also provide our fans with an even higher caliber of play as the result of reduced player fatigue.”
 

 

“In the short term, this initiative will require some adjustments to our clubs’ business plans due to the elimination of two home games, but in the long term, it is clearly the right thing to do for our players and our fans.”

 

 

 

I have some mixed feelings about this.  I think it’s kind of shady to go changing things for next season when teams have already been actively preparing for next season, and soliciting money for season tickets.  Two home games is a significant amount of revenue.

And travel is a sensitive subject, when you’ve got the Western Conference teams making some big trips each season, and some Eastern Conference teams who are able to avoid booking hotel rooms completely because they are within busing distance of every opponent.  There isn’t balance between the two conferences at all.

I asked Admirals President Jon Greenberg for some thoughts on the announced changes.  And at the end of the day, the NHL gets what the NHL wants.

“The schedule modification that was put forth by the American Hockey League is supported very strongly by the National Hockey League. We are a developmental league, and our job here from a hockey standpoint is to put our players in the best possible position to succeed. I think that everyone agrees that it’s not advantageous to play that fourth game in five days, even though we looked better the more we played this year.  This year, we had seven four-in-fives (I think), which is difficult on everyone from the players to the coaches to the radio announcer.

“At the end of the day, it is important to understand that the players belong to our NHL affiliate.  Our job here in Milwaukee is to give them the best tools to succeed whether it’s through great facilities which we have, great coaching and training which we have, a great city to live in which we have and great ownership which affords them resources that they might not have in other places.

“From a business standpoint, we will continue to give the best product possible off the ice to surround our great on-ice product.  Having two fewer home games will mean that the 38 that remain will be even more heavily loaded with fun things for fans to do and watch. Having 38 road games means that hopefully there will be some travel savings for the organization.”

I don’t know the numbers of how much revenue a Wednesday night game would bring in, compared to travel costs.  Will the travel savings be enough to offset the revenue of two home games?  If we play less games against North Division, I suppose it’s possible.  If we just cut out a game against Rockford and Chicago, then that doesn’t seem like it would be huge savings in travel.

Jon also advised that for customers who have paid for 40 games in full already….the Admirals won’t be simply keeping the extra money.  The sales staff will be in touch with the customers, and those who still have an outstanding balance will have their billing adjusted.

I’ve got some other thoughts, but let’s get the discussion going from this point here.  Do you like any changes?  Do you buy the rationale used by the league to justify the changes?  Will it be weird for a playoff series to be determined in a best-of-5 series?

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10 Responses to Schedule Changes Next Year

  1. Taylor says:

    Still no mention of playing different teams for once….I want to play Hershey or another team from the Atlantic/Eastern divisions.

  2. Jason Karnosky says:

    My opinion on this is both positive and negative.
    Though I am not a fan of the reduction of schedule, I applaud the elimination of four in five night scenarios. I would prefer a reduction of three-in-threes to a maximum of six per season and no more than two for each team per month. Four less games will have a limited impact on revenue/travel anyway.

    The change from best of seven playoff series to best of five is ridiculous. I would suggest an expansion of AHL playoff rosters as a counter point. Only four teams get to play more than a maximum of 14 playoff games. Most of the AHL’s players are young prospects and I think those prospects only gain valuable experience by playing in playoff situations.

    I would love to see more East/West play. Eastern teams rarely have extensive travel, and limited trips to places like Manitoba, Texas or B.C. It would be nice to see Eastern clubs at least make one trip west or vice versa just for some fresh opponents. I think those games have a tendency to draw fans who dont want to see the same teams night in and night out.

  3. Ryan says:

    One could make the argument that the conditioning derived from the AHL schedule helps prepare players for the NHL. Can’t handle 3-in-3? Maybe you aren’t cut out for the big time.

    The Admirals were blessed with 30 of their 40 home games on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday this season. And as a result, they probably made more money than other teams that weren’t as blessed by the schedule maker. So from a bottom line standpoint, are teams really that happy to give up two games home games, and probably have a lot more weeknight games to play?

    Jason — I think the best point you bring up is the idea of equality. If the AHL really cares about ‘caliber of play’ and ‘quality of competition’….if those lines are meant to be more than just lip service, it NEEDS to be equal. Houston can’t have 12 3-in-3 sets while Milwaukee has 6….or whatever the numbers were this year.

  4. Section 200 says:

    My thoughts…
    Keep it a 80 game schedule.
    Keep it a best of 7 playoff series.
    Extend the season if need be to eliminate the 4 games in 5 nights and 3 in 3′s.
    Maybe 1 east vs. west game a month to mix it up.

    and most importantly…

    VIDEO REPLAY!!!!!!

  5. CreedFeed says:

    I posted this elsewhere and I’ll repeat it here. How is 4 games going to make a difference financially? I understand the travel costs are involved, but why doesn’t the AHL balance the schedule better? This year we had 9 games in October and 11 games in January. Compare that to 14 in December and 15 in March. Why not move a few more games into other months? So we have to play a few games on a Monday or Tuesday?

    Irregardless, 76 games is fine with me. What really sucks is the best of 5 first round playoff series. That completely sucks.

    If the AHL is interested in improving the quality of the league, add video replay. Force the teams to get video properly set up in their arenas. Get the NHL to help pay the costs. Do something. :)

  6. BugsAllOverMe says:

    I agree with pieces of the various comments.

    Like Taylor, I’d love to see teams we don’t get to see often er, more often :). Its great to have the local rivalries, but would like to see more of the ‘other’ teams.

    Lowering the game total doesn’t bother me and I agree the 4 in 5 elimination is good. I don’t have a problem with the 3-3 even if they are out of balance among times, that’s the way it goes sometimes. Some teams have easier schedules than others.

    I think the more games on the weekends, the better the financial performance. So more weekday games is not a good idea and should be a big deal.

    I’d also like to see the game times pushed back a half hour for Monday to Saturday games. A lot of people work 9-5 and commute an average of 25 minutes. While they can make it, the rush deters. Sundays, at least ’round these parts needs to avoid Packer games.

    I also don’t like the idea of extending the season. While I love the season and games, real life sets in at some point and spreading the season out more hurts attendance IMO.

    The best of 5 I don’t like at all.

  7. Neil says:

    I am sick and tired of seeing every other game be against Peoria, Rockford or Chicago. I hate those games. I get to know those teams and their players WAY better than I want. There are 15 (FIFTEEN!) Eastern Conference teams we NEVER get to see. Not rarely – NEVER. I’d love to see Hershey come play us. How about the Norfolk Admirals? Or how about the Bruins? Heck, we don’t even get to play the Rochester Americans and they’re in the WESTERN CONFERENCE. That’s just silly.

  8. adsfan says:

    Neil makes some good points. I did see a game in Rochester the day after Thanksgiving versus Toronto. It was nice to see other teams for once! Norfolk has been to Milwaukee once in 10 years. I don’t remember seeing Syracuse or Portland.

    The 5 games in the first round of the playoffs shoots 16 teams in the foot. You are taking away 1 home game from each qualifier. Cut Andrews pay by 28%!

  9. Ryan says:

    How about the idea of treating inter-conference play like MLB treats interleague play? Make a big production out of it. Everybody gets one roadtrip to the other conference, and play three games against all teams in the region. It all happens over two weeks in January. Some teams can come to the midwest and get Milwaukee, Chicago, and Rockford….or some other combination. And then the Admirals maybe play all the Massachusetts teams.

    As for revenue of two home games? Let’s say it’s a Wednesday and a Friday game. Wednesday maybe 3,000 fans. Friday maybe 6,000. Let’s say each ticket is $15. That’s $135,000 that goes out the door. And that’s just gate numbers. I don’t know if the Admirals get revenue from anything else, or if a lot of the $$$$ goes towards the Bucks (I think I remember that concessions go to the Bucks for some reason). Yeah, it’s two games of a 40 game schedule…..but that’s a still a pretty big number to lose, just because people want more rest.

  10. pez77 says:

    If the AHL wants to be considered the second best league in the world, they need to have instant replay and for a fan to follow their team for 76 games and then lose in a five game first round series. Not cool for your fans. I don’t mind going down to 76 games but losing playoff games is a bad thing.

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