Yesterday, the National Hockey League announced the two potential start dates for the Stanley Cup Finals:
"If both Conference Final series have been decided by Tuesday, May 26, the Western Conference winner would host Game 1 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final on Thursday, May 28. Otherwise, Game 1 will be played on Friday, June 5."
The first option would have come to fruition had both Conference Finals ended in sweeps, which was heading that way when Detroit came back to tie the game last night against Chicago. Then, Patrick Sharp put home the overtime winner and now there's the potential for a ten-day layoff between the Conference Finals and Game One of the Stanley Cup.
One of the many, many, many fans who are rather upset by the NHL's poor scheduling is Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun, who remembers something that NHL senior vice president of hockey operations told him a decade ago:
"If the series begins June 5 and goes seven, it would be the latest-finishing Stanley Cup final in a non-Olympic year since 1999, when Brett Hull's toe-in-the-crease goal won it for Dallas at 1:30 a.m. Eastern, on June 20 - after which I distinctly recall NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell telling me the league simply had to find a way to end the hockey season before June."
The NHL isn't the NFL, where they can afford a two-week layoff between the Conference Championships and the Super Bowl. If Pittsburgh sweeps Carolina and the Red Wings finish the Blackhawks in five games, there will be no hockey from May 28 until June 5th. That's is a lot of time for the casual hockey fan, who migrates to hockey during the playoffs, to forget about the sport and get wrapped up in summer vacations, baseball and the upcoming training camps in football.
Games One and Two of the Stanley Cup will be played on back-to-back nights, June 5 and 6. Like Cole points out, should the NHL schedule the remaining five games every second day, Game Seven could fall on June 16th, one day after the League's drop dead date of ending the season of June 15th. So, would that mean two sets of back-to-back games in the Cup finals to meet the NHL's planned end date? Possibly and as Cole notes, that's something that's unfair to the teams who will be involved:
"In the modern era, such an idea would be considered preposterous: four rounds into the playoffs, when fatigue and injuries have mounted, playing on back-to-back nights - maybe twice in the same series?