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NHL Season is Too Long! Fun Ways to Refresh the Format

Nothing is boring about NHL playoff hockey. In fact, the Stanley Cup Final has seen an increase in viewership over the last few seasons. NHL betting is more popular than ever. But let’s be honest: the season can run for too darn long. This NHL season started on Oct. 10 and, if the Final goes seven games, it will end on June 24. That adds up to 258 days.

In comparison, the NBA season could conclude earlier despite starting later (Oct. 24). This is 243 days if the NBA Finals goes a full seven games. Meanwhile, the 2023 NFL season lasted only 157 days and the 2023 MLB season ran for 216. The length of the NHL season can drag and it reminds us of another sport that is wildly popular across the pond: soccer.

NHL Season is Too Long! Fun Ways to Refresh the Format
Brandon Montour #62 of the Florida Panthers | Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

 

It’s Summer and We Still Have Hockey?!

Is the NHL season too long? Yes. The average temperature in Miami, Fla., is now 90 degrees. All 32 NFL teams will have finished their OTAs. And the UEFA European Championships and Copa America will either have started or are about to begin. Don’t just take our word for it. Ask the average person on social media.

It’s the middle of summer. The NHL season is 20 games too long. The (Stanley) Cup should have been awarded end of April,” said an X user, which was also quoted by another.

Even NHL players like Pat Maroon have been quoted as saying the season is too long. “Seventy-two or seventy-four [games] is the perfect amount,” Maroon said on Barstool’s Spittin’ Chiclets podcast in December 2022. “Or limit training camp. I think training camp’s too long. I really believe that. I think we play too many games.

A diehard fan would have no issue following the NHL. But for many fans, this is too long. The NHL even had a week off between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Final. This isn’t the Super Bowl. It can cause a lot of casual fans to tune out or forget it was even happening. The Stanley Cup playoffs started at the same time the NBA Playoffs did despite the NHL having a two-week headstart on the season.

So what’s the solution? The owners will never agree to shorten the season. We will have 82 regular-season games and the current best-of-seven playoff format. But what if we “spiced” things up by adapting something similar to what the NBA, or European soccer, does?

 

 

 

What if the NHL Adopted a European Soccer Format?

Did we just compare the NHL, the “manliest” and toughest sport, to soccer? If you think about it, they have too many similarities. And one of them can be the format of how they play their schedules – by splitting the games into different competitions.

The NBA implemented an In-Season Tournament, which debuted in 2023-24. While the idea was initially met with harsh criticism, it was a success. We saw more competitiveness in some teams and the inaugural championship game became the most-watched non-Christmas Day regular-season game since 2019.

The NHL can do something similar early in the season. This is also one way to get the lottery teams involved. Columbus fans and Buffalo fans will have something to cheer for. If the NHL did “shorten” the regular season to 72 games but exchanged some of these games for an in-season format, it may just be worth it.

Don’t grill us on the math or economics. But fans may just pay more for an In-Season Tournament when it’s the semifinals or the championship game. That may get butts in the arena over a battle of two lottery-destined teams in March.

 

Condense the NHL Schedule

Having an In-Season Tournament can also force the NHL to condense its schedule. That may seem counterintuitive. But currently, the NHL has a “bye week” around late January or early February for all 32 teams. This week could be spent on the In-Season Tournament’s playoff games.

And to Maroon’s point, the NHL can shorten the offseason. Teams don’t need a whole month of preseason hockey. Turn some of those into regular-season games, like what the NFL did.

They also do not need a bye week between the conference championships and the Stanley Cup Final. And since the NHL’s playoff format does not do re-seeding, as it once did, why are we waiting for every matchup to finish before moving to the next round? The matchups that are already set can start to keep the momentum going.

There are no easy fixes for shortening the NHL season. Betting online on the Stanley Cup champion is an easier pursuit. But one thing is sure: This current NHL season is too long.

 

 

Question Of The Day

How many games do NHL teams play?


Every NHL team plays in 82 regular-season games. The top 16 teams (eight from each conference) then qualify to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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