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?