Shortly after hitting publish on yesterday’s rant on how money and ticket buying are the metrics to measure a “good hockey fan,” Pierre LeBrun put this tweet out:
I know it's about money, but ridiculous teams still play this many exh games. Should be 3 max. Start season earlier. Award Cup by May 31 !
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) October 4, 2016
Yes, Pierre, sing it brother!
The preseason is too damn long. There isn’t good reason for it to be this long. I agree with three games, and might consider extending it to four if they chopped the prices of the tickets by at least a third. This way, every team gets two home preseason game. Three would be fine with one of the games played at a neutral site (Kansas City, Quebec City, etc).
Insanity? I don’t think so.
What is the point of the preseason?
If it’s for the team to get in playing shape, then how come many of the players that move on to the regular season don’t play in half the preseason games? If the point is getting up to game speed, play them.
Weeding out who isn’t going to make the team? That’s a tired excuse. How many actual slots are available on the average NHL team? How many real bubble players are there?
Let’s look at the Colorado Avalanche preseason cuts. I’m going to steal shamelessly from the Colorado Avalanche Prospects blog, run by Jori5280. This was posted on October 2nd:
Prior to the Avs preseason game against the LA Kings on Friday, the club reassigned the following players: Sergei Boikov (D), San Antonio (AHL)
Cody Corbett (D), San Antonio (AHL)
Rocco Grimaldi (C), San Antonio (AHL)
Cole Sanford (RW), San Antonio (AHL)
In addition, Julien Nantel (C) was also reassigned to the Rampage for injury rehab.
On Sunday, the Avalanche announced that an additional nine players have been reassigned to San Antonio: Troy Bourke (LW)
Turner Elson (C)
AJ Greer (LW)
Samuel Henley (C)
Spencer Martin (G)
Jim O’Brien (C)
Jeremy Smith (G)
Ryan Stanton (D)
Joe Whitney (RW)
This whittled the roster down to 30. None of the players listed had a chance of making the Avalanche roster. That second list of cuts came after the third preseason game. Three preseason games to determine that players who aren’t even bubble players won’t be on the squad.
This is on a team with twelve signed forwards (two of which could see time in the AHL), seven signed defensemen, and the two goalies locked in. That doesn’t include two players on try-out contracts.
Five of the players cut after the Kings game played in that game. Here is the roster list for the game. What was the point?
Four days later, here is the Avalanche roster against the Minnesota Wild. That is more like a preseason game worth going to. The difference in rosters is startling. Now we are seeing hockey games that have a point. Prior to this game, the rosters looks like minor league reports.
So why do they charge full price for a game that isn’t NHL caliber, with players who aren’t in the NHL, and has no bearing on the season?
The reason is simple: they can and it makes them money. The players are on salary, so a few more games played extracts more value from them. The minor-leaguers are cheap, probably not much more cost than room and board. And of course, fans show up because they miss hockey. The preseason is practically designed to vacuum up more cash.
The point isn’t the hockey. It isn’t to see what guys have to offer. It is to make money.
There’s nothing wrong with making money, but like I said before, there is nothing wrong with leaving a few bucks on the table now to get the customers / fans back next time. The regular season is already thin enough with 82 games and derided as a poor substitute for playoff hockey. The preseason dilutes it more.
The preseason is too long. The season itself is too long, and a long preseason only extends that. I love hockey, but 82 games and pushing the Stanley Cup into mid-June is too much. Especially with the never-ending hockey news cycle we see over the off-season (draft, free agency, weird little leagues, constant workout regimes), there is never a break from hockey. And yes, we can all use a break.
To quote Sterling Archer, read a book.
Again, a shout out to Kukla’s Korner where I read this tweet. I’ve severely cut my hockey reading sources. Probably too much. I need a few more straight forward sources. You know, not the kind that tell me what to think.