Montreal Canadiens: NHL Needs To Shift Calendar, Start Season Earlier

Oct 2, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Cole Caufield (22) celebrates after assisting on the winnig goal scored by forward Nick Suzuki (not pictured) in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Cole Caufield (22) celebrates after assisting on the winnig goal scored by forward Nick Suzuki (not pictured) in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Montreal Canadiens will finally kick off their 2023-24 season tomorrow night. The first games of the season will get underway this evening with three contests on the docket.

It seems a little late to be getting going as we are approaching the middle of October, and even the youngest kids in the country who take part in the sport have had their seasons begin already.

It really just emphasises the point that the NHL needs to consider starting their season sooner than they do. Much sooner.

It really would not take a drastic change in the number of games played or anything like that, they just need to get players to report back to their teams much earlier than they do. Let’s take this year’s Canadiens as an example and demonstrate how much quicker the NHL season should be getting underway.

The first day of training camp for the Canadiens was September 21st. This is later than usual, and about a full week later than the previous date of September 15th when NHL teams would routinely begin their training camps. This could result in the Stanley Cup being handed out on June 24th this year if each round has a series that goes the distance.

That means the Stanley Cup could be handed out, the NHL Draft held over two days and the opening of free agency could all happen in a seven day period. That is just too many huge events to pack in to such a small time frame. The NHL needs to spread these things out so they can properly market them, hype them up and not have to hold the draft on a Thursday afternoon like they did last year.

In order to do that, they need to end the season much sooner than June 24th. They need to have players begin training camp much earlier than September 21st so that the Stanley Cup is awarded in early June.

Instead of reporting on September 21st, players should begin training camp just after Labour Day. Once that long weekend is in the rearview mirror and kids are back in school for a few days, people are ready to get back in to their usual routines and are well aware summer is over for another year.

So, NHL teams should open camp on the Wednesday after Labour Day. This year, that would mean the Canadiens would have started on September 6th instead of the 21st. That immediately starts and ends the season 15 days earlier. That would be terrific, but we could also shorten training camp a little as well.

The Canadiens have 20 days of camp this year which is totally unnecessary. Two weeks, or 14 days would be enough to bring players together, get them acquainted, hit the ice and take part in preseason and accurately make their final cuts to pick the team.

Speaking of preseason, it could be a little more streamlined to make it more fun for fans as well. We don’t need games spread out over nearly two weeks, as all teams could simply play four games in a seven day span. They could even have “cut-down days” between games where teams are required to meet a roster limit as the week goes on.

For example, had the Canadiens reported to training camp on September 6th this year, they could have four days of practices, then play preseason games on the 10th, 12th, 14th and 16th. On each off day in between games, they would have to trim their roster down. Say, announce a roster with a maximum of 40 players on the 11th, 30 players on the 13th, 25 on the 15th and the final roster on the 17th.

This would also make the final couple of preseason games fairly close to regular season lineups for everyone while younger players and fringe prospects could play the first game or two of preseason and that would be all.

Then, the team would have three days of practice or whatever they choose to do together before wrapping up their 14 day training camp and starting the regular season. Had the Canadiens followed this schedule this year, they would have played their first regular season game on September 20th.

That is three full weeks earlier than their current schedule, which would mean the season would end on June 3rd at the very latest. Then, the NHL Draft could be held on an actual weekend, with nearly three weeks of lead up and hype for the top prospects as they get drafted on Friday, June 21st in the evening and then Saturday afternoon, or why not Saturday night? Wouldn’t enough people be interested in round two?

Either way, it would be a heck of a lot better than an afternoon draft on a Thursday like we saw last spring.

There is a bigger thirst for NHL hockey on televisions in late September than there is in late June. It seems like a no brainer to start things earlier and end the season a little sooner so there is some runway for the NHL Draft and a few days of lead up to the opening of free agency as well.

Packing all of the end of season and offseason events into a six or seven day period is too compact. The NHL needs to rethink its own setup and get the regular season started quicker.

Next. Final Preseason Game Gives Reason For Excitement. dark

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