Thursday, June 21, 2012

New schedule, new problems

Release of 2012-13 schedule belies labor strife, NHL indifference to Wild

By Wild Road Tripper

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- They still just don't get it.

With their season possibly headed for shortening due to labor strife, the NHL released their 2012-2013 schedule Thursday morning, to a round of 'Huh?' from fans of the Minnesota Wild.

The League did the Wild absolutely NO favors, as not only did they fail to appreciate the instant interest that two games vs. the Winnipeg Jets had last season, they stuck the Wild with two games vs. the lowly New York Islanders, for the second straight season. (They might have actually felt sorry for Charles Wang's forlorn hockey club, as the Isles beat the Wild twice last season.)

Yes, they scheduled two games (home and home) also with the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins (the game at the 'X' in St. Paul, January 19, probably to be proclaimed 'Hockey Day Minnesota') but to leave the Jets off the schedule in St. Paul, does take a bit of explaining from the head office in Manhattan.

Other than that, the annual visit of the Disney on Ice troupe in early December will once again leave the Wild traversing the Southwest, just as winter begins its' grip on the Upper Midwest. But, even worse than that is the 12-day, 6-city marathon beginning in Tampa Bay on Nov. 3 (leaving Minnesota the previous day) and ending in Philadelphia on Nov. 12. They play in Tampa, Boston, the Rangers, Detroit, Newark (vs. the NJ Devils), and Philly before heading for home.

As for the 'traditional' games, other than the HDM game noted above, the other dates to note are:

Home Opener -- Oct. 13 (Colorado)
'Black Friday' -- Nov. 23 (Toronto)
New Years' Eve -- Dec. 31 (Edmonton)
'Hockey Day America' -- Feb. 17 (Detroit)
Last Home Game -- Apr. 13 (Columbus)

33 of the 41 home games are 7:00 PM starts. Of the other eight games, four are 5:00 PM starts, two games at 8:00 PM, and one each at 6:30 PM (Detroit, Feb. 17) and one lone afternoon game (Saturday, March 23, vs. San Jose).

Other points of note: One game of the 12 against the two Alberta teams (Calgary and Edmonton) is played prior to the New Year, as are two of the 6 games against Vancouver. By contrast, the six games vs. Colorado are fairly spread out throughout the schedule. The Wild have only one inter-conference game after Feb. 6, so if they are going to actually make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013, they will have to do it on their own, by beating the other teams in their own conference again, and again.

And, unlike last season, when the Wild played most of their last two weeks at home, this season the Wild play five of their last seven on the road, in a final 5-game, 9-day gasser, with games in all four time zones. And, the final game of that stretch is their second game at Detroit, who never treat the Wild well, no matter how well the Red Wings are doing otherwise.

But, the reality is that until the NHL and the Players' Association can come to agreement on how to slice up that revenue souffle' that's being served up, there may not even BE a season to complain about a schedule over. The fact of the matter remains, that if Don Fehr and Gary Bettman can't get along, we'll all be sitting home, wondering what would have really happened in those two games against the lowly Islanders.

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