Dogged by the schedule

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I remember when Bruce Buchanan used to call Oiler games on TV, and it was a privilege as a kid to get to see a game because not even half of them were televised.

The game has changed.

Every game is televised now, and if the odd one isn’t, fans stare at their clock radio wondering how to use this archaic thing called a radio to listen in. Fans expect games to be televised now, and some will even moan over which station a game is on.

The Oilers released their schedule yesterday, and the first question amongst many was which games will be on television and where?

VP of communications and broadcasts for the Oilers, Allan Watt, was on my show yesterday explaining how the schedule gets set.

The Oilers home schedule breaks down like this:

  • Monday: six games
  • Tuesday: eight games
  • Wednesday: six games
  • Thursday: eight games
  • Friday: six games
  • Saturday: four games
  • Sunday: three games

I wouldn’t blame the fans, and even the Oilers, if they feel they were the lady and the dog was the schedule maker.

Every team except Chicago, Anaheim, Washington and the Rangers has twice as many Saturday night home games as the Oilers.

The Oilers have averaged eight Saturday home games since the lockout. Last year the Oilers had eight home games, in 2008 they had six, in 2007 they had ten, and in 2006 they had eight.

But remember that TV has lots of pull over which teams play on Saturday nights, and the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs in three years. Do you think it was a coincidence that after their Cinderella run in 2006 the Oilers had ten Saturday home games in 2007?

This year the Flames have seven Saturday home games, the Canucks ten, the Leafs 15, the Habs 14 and the Sens 13. Whether we like it or not, eastern-based teams will always have more games on Saturday due to a larger audience.

There are 26 Saturdays during the season, and it is a bit strange that the Canucks, Flames and Oilers combined only have 21 Saturday home games. You’d think it would at least be 26 due to the double-header on CBC, but there must be some road games of those three on the schedule.

Here are a few other things I learned yesterday regarding what station will broadcast Oiler games this year:

  • The contract with Sportsnet is for 40 games right now. Sportsnet has done 48 games in the past. They could add some before the official TV schedule is released, but for now it is 40.
  • CBC has to pick up 12 Oiler games, and TSN has to take ten. Right now they are both committed to those numbers.

Add it up and that is only 62 out of 82 games. Don’t fret, the other 20 will find a home on TV. The Oilers will have between 12-15 games on PPV, and I’m guessing TSN will pick up the rest on TSN or on TSN2.

TSN has exclusive rights on Wednesdays, and CBC has exclusivity on Saturdays starting at 4pm MT. That is why the Oilers play a road game in Boston at 11am this year. That game will be broadcast on Sportsnet or PPV.

The other factor in scheduling is building availability. Many think the Oilers get first priority at Northlands, and that isn’t the case. Certain events and concerts are planned a year ahead of time, so they actually get first priority.

The Rodeo always has an eight-day window in November. While the rodeo doesn’t start until Wednesday Nov 11th this year, they start on Monday the 9th trucking in dirt and then have to get out by Monday the 16th.

This year the Olympic curling trials take over Rexall from Dec 5th until the 14th, when you consider set up and take down. Then there are big concerts, trade shows and monster truck events that are secured a year ahead of time.

If the Oilers are more competitive this year and make the playoffs you can expect more Saturday night home games next year, if not, they’ll be around four to six, I suspect.
Here’s a breakdown of Saturday night home games for the rest of the NHL:

  • Teams with four: Chicago
  • Teams with six: Anaheim, NYR, Washington
  • Teams with eight: Minnesota, New Jersey
  • Teams with nine: Buffalo, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit
  • Teams with ten: Atlanta, Carolina, Florida
  • Teams with eleven: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • Teams with twelve: Boston, Columbus, Tampa Bay
  • Teams with thirteen: San Jose, St. Louis
  • Teams with fifteen: Nashville, NYI
  • Teams with sixteen: Los Angeles
  • Teams with seventeen: Phoenix

Last year the Predators, Coyotes and Islanders were three of the bottom four teams in home attendance, and I wonder if all the home Saturday games actually hurt their attendance. Saturday night hockey is not a great draw in many Amercian markets.

The season is still months away, but the one thing that has to change in order for the Oilers to make the playoffs is their home record on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Last year the Oilers were a horrendous 3-12-1 combined on those days.

QUALIFYING OFFER

Ladislav Smid, Gilbert Brule and Denis Grebeshkov haven’t accepted the Oilers’ qualifying offers to date either. Grebeshkov is going to arbitration while the others are still trying to negotiate.

Liam Reddox didn’t accept the offer, and it sounds like he is looking at Europe as an option. Reddox doesn’t want a two-way deal, because if he’s sent down he’d make around $75,000. If he goes to Europe, he’ll make significantly more than that, and it will be guaranteed money.

I’m sure he looks at the odds of him making this team, or any NHL team, and realizes that Europe could be a much better fit, especially financially.

I don’t blame him one bit. He is only 23 and if he goes to Europe and plays well he might get a one-way deal when he returns, and in the mean time he’ll make a lot more money.

THEY SAY GUYS ARE BAD

Was I the only one who found it funny that the women never stepped in to help their friend when Dobry the Dog got excited? They just laughed. Classic.

  • Ender the Dragon

    As I read that, I realize it is a leading question, and in the wrong direction. The correct answer is that you'd be fair about things across the board with all 30 teams. The League's answer, however . . .

  • Souby

    @ myteammytown:
    True, but that was a situation of the fall-out from the mismanaged funds and bad debts by Peter Puck. The EIG came in and was able to turn things around because the NHL as a product was viable in Edmonton because it is a hockey town. People here love hockey and are willing to spend their money on it.

    If there was a chance that hockey could be saved in a place like Phoenix then it would worth it. The problem is that Phoenix is not a hockey market and never will be!

  • Ender the Dragon

    Librarian Mike wrote:

    I wonder if the F.O.G. rule applies here (Friend of Gretzky)…

    This has nothing to do with Gretzky. It has everything to do with the fact that until the court finishes ruling on a sale to a new owner, the League is in control of the Coyotes. If you were making a schedule and wanted to save a tanking team you controlled, what would you do?

  • scorecoff hemmercules

    @ jeff:

    I wish Ferraro was still on sportsnet, always liked that guy. CBC does kinda suck but at least the Crow isn't there anymore, now if they could just get Cherry to retire.

  • myteammytown

    Souby wrote:

    @ thashiznit:
    That’s exactly my point. Edmonton sells out every night and those people paid a premium to go to the game. Plus concession prices are high, merchandise prices are high, advertising prices are high etc. They make money hand-over-fist. Why not give the Oilers these premium dates and stop trying to save a franchise that is not worth saving?
    While they are at it, why not look at relocating or retracting a number of these crappy franchises that continually fall below the bar in attendance and revenue? This is easier said than done, but when is enough actually enough?

    it wasnt that long ago that the Oilers were below the bar in attendance and revenue and had to be helped by the league to survive

  • Souby

    @ thashiznit:
    That's exactly my point. Edmonton sells out every night and those people paid a premium to go to the game. Plus concession prices are high, merchandise prices are high, advertising prices are high etc. They make money hand-over-fist. Why not give the Oilers these premium dates and stop trying to save a franchise that is not worth saving?

    While they are at it, why not look at relocating or retracting a number of these crappy franchises that continually fall below the bar in attendance and revenue? This is easier said than done, but when is enough actually enough?

  • jeff

    @ Hemi:
    I hate CBC, I wish all games were on sportsnet. At least with Sportsnet they talk about the game that is being played during intermissions, not what Brian Burke is doing in Toronto.

  • jeff wrote:

    Any word what Smid and Brule are looking for? Just curious to why those guys are taking so long to lock up.

    Brule will try to avoid the two way deal. It's not so much the NHL money, but his agent would rather him get out of the two way deal at this point. He'll sign at some point, because he won't go to Europe and he really doesn't have any other options. Unless some team offers him an offer sheet with a one-way deal. That is doubtful, but that's his only out that I see.Jodes wrote:

    How long to Brule and Smid have to decide if they aren’t going to arbitration?

    They aren't going. They would have had to file during the file period a few weeks back.

  • thashiznit

    Souby wrote:

    Why not help a team like Edmonton where hockey is and always will be #1?

    Because Edmonton sells out every game regardless of what night it plays… The NHL knows that so they give the dates to teams that struggle for attendance… People in Phoenix are more interested in going to the game to be seen and for the social aspect… where as here in Edmonton you don't see that to the same degree where we have more "Hockey" fans here.

  • Hemi

    As always with the Maple Laughs and the Montreal Knobs, they rule the HNIC. CBC has always and will always catered to these two clubs. It has been a sore point with me for years.

  • Souby

    @ mbam99:
    I hear you. My point is, why keep helping a team like Phoenix, where hockey will never have a serious chance at long term survival? Why not help a team like Edmonton where hockey is and always will be #1?

    Does anyone else find it funny to hear from Bettman how well the league is doing despite the state of the U.S. and Canadian economies? mbam99 just described a half full building in Phoenix, which is similar to the attendance situation in other warm weather NHL cities. It's either a case of Bettman having rose coloured glasses, or he is scrambling to keep his job! My guess is the latter.

  • toprightcorner

    I heard Allan Watt yesterday mentioned that they did a lot of surveys and that they showed positive numbers for liking the announcers, including Debrusk?!? I have not heard one positive comment about Debrusk from my friends, and any of the blogs. How on earth can they get an overall "positive" reaction to him? I was shocked to hear that as IMO he is one of the worts colour guys I have heard in Edmonton for a very long time!! How did they conduct this survey. I would guess that many of these surveys went to season ticket holders. How in the heck can these guys comment on the TV announcers when they are in the seats??

  • Jodes

    Is anyone else a bit nervous that Brule hasn't accepted the offer yet? We know about Grebs, but what about Smid? Is he still waiting to see if he's gone to Ottawa?

    How long to Brule and Smid have to decide if they aren't going to arbitration?

  • smiliegirl15

    So the Leafs have 15 Saturday night games? They haven't been a playoff team in dog years! They do have a ton of fans across the country but that's ridiculous. I think the western teams only have 21 combined Saturday games rather than 26 because the Leafs have to be picked up on the second game of the double header when they play teams like Phoenix and in California. Sheesh!
    Another reason to hate the Leafs.

  • mbam99

    Souby wrote:

    Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven’t been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous.
    While I acknowledge that the Eastern teams have larger audiences, you can’t tell me that Edmonton’s audience is small compared to the Coyotes?

    When I was down in Phoenix last year to watch some games, I was talking with some of the staff of the Coyotes. We talked about how empty the arena was. They explained to me that the games people decide to wach are based on the day, not on the team. They went on to say that Pittsburgh came in on a Thursday night and the building was half empty. However, when the Kings come in on a Saturday, the place was full(er).
    We saw games on Thursday (Canucks), Saturday (Flames) and Monday (Oilers). The Saturday night was by far the fullest night.
    I think this is the way of the NHL trying to help out the Coyotes.

  • Librarian Mike

    Souby wrote:

    Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven’t been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous.

    I wonder if the F.O.G. rule applies here (Friend of Gretzky)…

  • jeff

    All I hope is we don't get screwed with having a 7:30 game and being apart of a double header. Move the games to 8:00 if TSN or Sportsnet wants to make us the second half of a doubleheader.

  • Souby

    Phoenix with 17 Saturday home games? I understand that the Oil haven't been that good for a few years now, but they only get 4 Saturday home dates? WTF? This is ridiculous.

    While I acknowledge that the Eastern teams have larger audiences, you can't tell me that Edmonton's audience is small compared to the Coyotes?