It’s October, which means the leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder, and hockey season is just around the corner.
The National Hockey League’s 2022-23 season looks to be a real return to normalcy since the pandemic, with virus outbreaks and postponements hopefully being a thing of the past.
This season, the NHL bringing back a staple, the Global Series, which took place between 2017 and 2019, which no games due to the pandemic the past two seasons.
Going over to Europe, especially those countries where hockey is popular, is nothing out of the ordinary for the NHL. They’ve been doing it for a long time. They’ve even played games in Japan.
Where the NHL Global Series doesn’t make sense is the scheduling of them. Specifically, making them the first regular season games while the preseason is still happening back in North America.
The first part of this season’s NHL Global Series in Prague, Czech Republic saw the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators kick off the regular season. But it happened on a Friday…starting at 1 p.m. in Nashville and 11 a.m. in the Bay Area, on the NHL Network, going up against four MLB Postseason games.
Even the way the league plugged it seems weird since most fans see the season starting this upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday with the opening games on ESPN and TNT in the U.S.
Opening Night on Tuesday will see a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Final when the New York Rangers host the Stanley Cup finalist Tampa Bay Lightning on ESPN, with the back-half of the doubleheader matching the Vegas Golden Knights against the Kings in Los Angeles.
The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche host the Chicago Blackhawks on TNT Wednesday night. You could make the argument that the Avs should play the opening game Tuesday, but it’s not the biggest problem here.
In other sports, like the NFL, the defending Super Bowl champion normally plays host in a Thursday night opener. But imagine the league deciding to have its London game on Tuesday afternoon before “Opening Night” to begin the regular season, featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Commanders.
In November, the Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets will play two regular season games in Finland. Why couldn’t the NHL send the Sharks and Predators to the Czech Republic the following week? They could take a page from the NFL, who just played exciting back-to-back games in London the last two Sundays.
It would also be nice if those overseas regular season games were nationally televised on ESPN or TNT. Not everyone gets NHL Network. And while start times are adjusted so games start in the evening there, at least play them on Saturday and Sunday, not Friday-Saturday.
The NHL has gotten much better with its big events, especially with the outdoor games like the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, but the NHL Global Series could be re-tooled to reach more fans in North America, making it an event fans can look forward to.