Canadiens Early Schedule Not Fair For Fans And Team

Playing four NHL games in six nights is bad in the best of times. Doing so to start a season, when the players – the ones fans to pay to watch play – aren’t yet in full game shape is absolutely ridiculous.

And that’s what the Montreal Canadiens are in the process of completing with their early schedule.

During the COVID shortened seasons, teams had to do it due to a more compressed schedule, trying to squeeze in every penny they could to inflate revenues. But the pandemic appears to be behind us and the league is playing a regular 82-games schedule. So my question to the NHL is this:

What’s the need to do that? And if it’s a must for some odd reason, why do it at the start of a season?

Risk of injuries

Players train more than ever in the off-season, that’s true. Gone are the old days when NHL players took it relatively easy during the summer months, showing up at camp to “get in shape” for the season. Now, they come into camp to “get in game shape”. But with that off-season training comes faster and more competitive training camps.

The Montreal Canadiens are still suffering the effects of the two years of shortened and highly compressed schedule, and their playoffs’ run. Shea Weber, the team’s uncontested number one defenseman, will never play hockey again due to injuries. The team’s franchise player, Carey Price, has tried coming back for five games after missing all of last season. He too is unlikely to play again.

Paul Byron has developed and aggravated a hip injury and after only playing 27 of 82 games last season, he’s still out with that hip issue. Who knows if he’ll ever be able to play again. Joel Edmundson was out for all but the last 24 games of the season last year. He’s still out with recurring back issues… and he will try to return but who knows how successful that will be. Brendan Gallagher only managed 56 games, most of them playing hurt, and Jonathan Drouin only played 34 games last season due to injuries.

Money ahead of spectacle

There is already an overload of pre-seasons’ games (money talks, again) and teams have to carry enough players through camp to field two teams because of it.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that NHL players are treated like cattle by the league and owners. But the issue goes well beyond that. In fact, I’m now convinced that the NHLPA is just as much to blame for it as the Commissioner and the owners. They are all going along with it, risking their own health. Why? It’s called GREED.

Even after two years of a fixed salary cap and limited revenues, the minimum wage for a player to sit in the pressbox and eat hot dogs is $750,000 a year, going up to $800,000 by 2025-26. The average salary around the NHL for the 2022-23 season sits at around $3.5 million, with Tyler Seguin leading the way, touching $13 million this season.

What about the fans?

You see, if you ask the Commissioner, the owners and the players the question, they will give you the politically correct answer. But at some point, actions speak louder than words. They will do anything for an extra buck, even loading helmets and jerseys with ads, or have different advertising annoying fans on the boards for TV broadcasts. Greed is a very, very powerful thing. People have killed for it.

The truth is that they don’t really care about the spectacle on the ice if it puts cash in their pocket. The owners certainly don’t as long as they have fans in the stands and TV contracts and sponsorships. Players will even risk their own health in order to insure that there will be a few more thousands of dollars in their pockets at the end. Because enough is never enough for the greedy. And with greed comes selfishness.

The fans? Meh. As long as you keep on giving us your money, they are all thinking.

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