In a negotiation with the NHL, the NHLPA voted for a new “bye week” that was implemented this season. With the players getting the bye week, the NHL All-Star Game was re-worked into the new 3-on-3 overtime format.
Bye weeks are common in sports like football, but they are not that common in professional hockey. For the NHL players, the bye week was put into place since the NHL is under a very compressed schedule. With the World Cup of Hockey that took place in Mid-September, the events that took place north of the border just compressed the schedule even more this year.
THE NHL SEASON NEEDS TO GET STARTED EARLIER
While the World Cup of Hockey played a major role in the NHL’s schedule this season, the regular season finally got underway on October 12. The NHL regular season is scheduled to conclude on April 9, and the NHL playoffs are scheduled to begin on April 12.
The World Cup of Hockey is not going to happen every single year, which is probably a good thing for the NHL. However, I think that mid-October is way too late to begin a regular season.
I would support the NHL season beginning a month earlier, in early September. If the league wants to eliminate some of the back-to-backs games, the best thing to do is to start the season earlier. If the NHL wants to make bye weeks a long-term solution in the schedule, the league needs to find a way to stretch the schedule out. The schedule is too tight right now, and that is not good for the players’ health.
Another option the NHL would probably never consider is to shorten the amount of regular season games. I do not support this move, but if the NHL wants to stretch out the schedule a bit, this could be a viable option.
BYE WEEKS KILL MOMENTUM
I am a firm believer in this thing called “momentum” in sports. I feel that the bye weeks can hurt a team’s momentum, especially if it is a team that is hot right before the bye week. A long break in hockey can hurt the teams that are performing well.
When there is a long break, players can easily lose focus, and their timing on the ice can be thrown off a bit. When players practice every day, the routine is the same, and it is easier to stay focused. When they are on a bye week, most players will vacation somewhere and will take a short break from hockey.
I will admit that teams can benefit from a bye week. If there is a team that has sustained a boatload of injuries, that team can benefit from the 5-day break. But, I believe that most coaches around the league can manage ice time well for his players, and he will give the players enough breaks throughout the year to keep them fresh and without nagging injuries.
The NHL survived without a “bye week” in seasons before, so why is one needed now? While I think “bye weeks” can help teams, I feel that they can hurt them just as equally.
By: George Foussekis