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The Early NHL Schedule

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Photo credit:David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Liam Horrobin
6 months ago
The NHL regular season is in full swing as the league heads into its first weekend of the year. There’s no doubt that this season has had a little extra buzz around it despite only being six days old.
The biggest headliner has been the introduction of Connor Bedard to the world stage. The first overall pick from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft has satisfied both, with a goal and an assist in his first two games. His debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins was marketed in a way that many fans around the league haven’t seen before. On opening night, ESPN drew 1.43 million eyes to Bedard’s first matchup versus Sidney Crosby, which is the most for a regular season game ever that wasn’t played outdoors. Additionally, Bedard’s first five games are in some of the biggest markets in the league: Pittsburgh, Boston, Montreal, Toronto and Colorado. All of those games will also be played on national television.
“I was in St Louis for McDavid’s first game, and there was no buzz,” said Frank Seravalli when comparing Connor McDavid’s debut to Connor Bedard’s from a marketing perspective. “There were normal people from Edmonton that showed up, and it was not on national television because the Oilers were never on NBC on the last deal.”
“I was getting responses from my Tweet about Bedard scoring his first point saying Bedard fatigue,” continued Seravalli. “On one hand, we complain about how the NHL doesn’t market its stars enough, and now here we are reporting on them, and people are saying enough already.”
While the Bedard marketing has been exceptional, other spots on the scheduling could have been better to begin the season. It’s not all doom and gloom, having had some other great moments like the Vegas Golden Knights Stanley Cup banner night, Auston Matthews’ hat trick versus the Montreal Canadiens in that come-from-behind victory, and an early edition of Sidney Crosby vs Alex Ovechkin.
The first problem with the schedule came right off the jump. The league started its regular season with the Nashville Predators versus the Tampa Bay Lightning, a contest between two teams with little history between them. The opening game of your season should be a marque matchup, not two random teams you pull out of a hat. The NHL didn’t want to “waste” a big game for the Tampa Bay Lightning right away, which is wrong.
The NBA, a league that markets its players tremendously, starts its regular season with a mega matchup with Lebron James and the LA Lakers travelling to play the Denver Nuggets, the current NBA champions.
What would’ve been a great contest was seeing the Florida Panthers, who just lost in the Stanley Cup Finals, go head-to-head against the state rivals.
Another bone that needs to be picked is what happened on Friday night. Only two games were on the schedule on the league’s first Friday. The Arizona Coyotes travelled to play the New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Washington Capitals. The problem isn’t necessarily the games themselves, but what happened afterwards?
Nothing happened.
The NHL opted to play no late game for his first Friday night of the season. Fans saw this numerous times last season; this Friday isn’t the only one this year. Next Friday is the same. To go back to the NBA comparison, the league has 11 games on its first Friday, and it’s closed out with the Sacramento Kings taking on the Golden State Warriors.
The schedule is going to take work. However, in the first week of your season, when all eyes are on you, you need the schedule to be close to perfect. It is an opportunity to gain more interest from new fans. Undoubtedly, the league has done a spectacular job of introducing Bedard, but more detail needs to be put into other areas.

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