When a team wins first place in the regular season, why can't that home-ice advantage extend to even a modicum of home-fan advantage for broadcast start times of away games?
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Those of you cheering on your teams in the Eastern Conference won't even know what I'm talking about. But for Wings fans, being in the Western Conference and in the Eastern Time Zone results in an away schedule that kills a lot of the home fan viewership of the event when away games don't start till 10PM, or some years, 11PM EDST. Believe it or not, some people are actually required to go to work the next morning and actually have to get some sleep.
Of course, in a multiple time zone country nobody is ever going to be happy with every aspect of the Playoff schedule. However, not just the Wings, but lots of other teams in the Western Conference, continue to get screwed with the scheduling which unabashedly favors the Eastern Conference. For example, on Wednesday, April 30, Versus is starting the scheduling with Montreal@Philly at 7PM EDST. The second game on the card is San Jose@Dallas at 9:30 PM EDST. Seems like pretty tight scheduling to me, without a lot of contingency planning for any of numerous stoppages in play or even overtime. But, don't worry Western Conference fans. If anything should happen to cause the Habs/Flyers game to run past the artificially designated completion time, the Sharks/Stars game will be "JIP" - Joined in Progress.
Can anyone give me one instance in which a Western Conference team was scheduled first and an Eastern Conference game was actually listed as JIP? Hmm...wonder which game the NHL thinks is more important?
It is a self-fulfilling prophecy and self-serving claim by whatever network is selected to show the games to state that the Eastern Conference games have the biggest viewership and should therefore be shown in EST prime time. I would advance the theory that the Eastern Conference teams have the greatest viewship because they are almost invariably shown in EST prime time while popular Western Conference teams are slotted in whatever later spot is left over.
It certainly is not unreasonable - with the teams playing in the second round this year - to consider slotting an Eastern Conference team at a later hour. For example, on Tuesday, April 26, we have Pittsburgh@NY at 7pm and Detroit@Colorado at 10PM. That is, three teams in the Eastern Time Zone and one in the Mountain Time Zone.
Detroit finished first in the NHL and has a nationwide fan base. Additionally, as mentioned, Detroit is in the Eastern Time Zone. With these four teams, one could argue for Detroit having an early start and having the Penguins/Rangers - perhaps at 9:30 JIP.
I used to work in NYC and commute from CT. New York City doesn't shut its doors at sunset and I've been to plenty of events at MSG and other locations in the city that go well into the night. The principal reason the Rangers game could logically be slotted later is because of the great mass transit system. I believe the last MetroNorth train to CT leaves around 1:00AM and ditto with the Long Island and NJ lines.
Late start times hurt the fans of teams - particularly those in CST - and of course, the NHL acts like Detroit is located in the CST. This happened in the first round, to some extent. I make it a point to read all the local papers of opposing teams and there was quite a bit of fan complaint in Nashville regarding late start times. The repeated complaint was how this practice is unfair to the fan base - especially for a team that is trying to strengthen its position with local fans such as the Preds.
Unlike teams in large metropolitan areas, fans in the Hinterlands must drive, sometimes several hours, to a game. And then they drive home late into the night after the game. I'd like to see actual data on viewership dropoff in a team's home broadcast area when the games start late and go on into the night. I'll bet the numbers aren't pretty. But, as long as the Eastern Conference viewership is high, all is well in Mediaville.
Of course, starting at 7PM against Colorado - in Moutain Time, means their game would start at 5PM locally. A bit of a problem for the first shifters, no doubt. But, under my proposal, the team that finished first in the NHL regular season would have the option of choosing an earlier start time for one of the Playoff 3, 4, or 6 games - to benefit their fans.
One doubts this will ever happen as those in Provincial East Coast Mediaville really do believe that nothing much happens west of the Hudson.
And we all know that the media is the tail wagging the NHL dog, not the fans.
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