Opening Day & The Non-Holiday Day Game

DC Sports Nexus ---- Friday, November 25, 2011

The NHL has had a few weekday afternoon games this year. It is nice when this happens because it means that hockey fans can watch more hockey. However, it sucks when your favorite team is in one of these games and you are not able to watch it like usual. My Caps fandom > My NHL fandom, so I'm not a big fan...

Flag Day Morning

Opening day in sports is the Christmas non-secular holiday morning of sports. You have been waiting all year for it, and as it gets closer and closer you get more and more excited each passing day. This year you even started listening to preseason analysis before Thanksgiving a little bit earlier than normal.

Your friends told you "It's too early to start listening" but you didn't care. Your office was filled with the sounds of Bing Crosby Barry Melrose, pissing off everyone in the cubes around you. But you tuned them out. You had the Christmas hockey spirit!

This Is Our Year

The first game of the year is a new beginning for teams. While you could consider it a meaningless early season game on paper, it is anything but that in the eyes of fans. Every team starts off in first place and fans are filled with hope, whether it be real or false. This is the year! This is the year WE win it all! That excitement and that new beginning makes for an environment that can't be re-created in game number 2, game number 25, or game number 73.

That excitement is even bigger and more powerful when your team opens up at home. Surrounded by thousands and thousands of people with the same hopes and anticipation, for some teams an aura that they will never see again the rest of the year.

The NHL Kills The Opening Day Excitement

At 1pm on a weekday most NHL fans are at work (Caps), occupying somewhere (Avalanche), unemployed without a TV (Penguins). or in the yard for their one hour of exercise time (Flyers, Rangers). However, for 4 teams, the NHL scheduled their season opener for the terrible 1pm weekday afternoon slot. These games were in other countries (don't get me started on this topic) as well, taking away real home openers for 3 or 4 of the teams.

Having a weekday afternoon game is awful, and making that game the opener is sports blasphemy in everything except baseball. In baseball, opening day is a tradition, and is almost a holiday in itself. It is a day to take off from work and enjoy a long peaceful afternoon at the ballpark. It's baseball. Hockey is not baseball. Hockey is far from baseball.

The Freaks Come Out At Night

The NHL and NBA experience are less like an all day picnic and more like a movie, especially in DC. People like to go to the movies at night. You get entertained for a few hours then you are right back to your life. Sometimes you leave smiling (Drive/Caps) and sometimes you leave angry (Avatar/Blue Jackets). You don't go to the movies on Friday at 1pm unless you are me, and you are taking a "long lunch" at work.

The NHL didn't just do this for the opening day either. On the following Monday there were 4 more afternoon games. These games weren't in other time zones like the previous opening games. These games were regular old NHL PTO games.

On the day after Thanksgiving the NHL has more afternoon games scheduled. Unlike the opening day games on a random October Friday, today's games are on a day when many people have off from work and can actually watch them. Many, but not all. It isn't even a government holiday, and they get like 50 days a year.

And So...

What is 1 or 2 games in an 82 game season? It doesn't sound like much. Why am I complaining? It didn't even really effect the Caps, a 4pm game on a day I have off is no problem. But what if? What if the Caps opened their season at 1pm on a Friday in Finland while you were at work. It would have been a little different then opening up at home in front of a rocking crowd with an exciting overtime win. If that was game 2 it would have been great, but not the same. If it was in Denmark you wouldn't have remembered it.

I'm selfish. When I metaphorically pay for 82 NHL games, I don't want to just hear about 82 NHL games. I don't want to just see 82 NHL games. I want to experience 82 NHL games. And I want those experiences to be at times that facilitate experiences, in environments that facilitate experiences. In the Nation's Capital at 7pm on an exciting Friday night in Chinatown, Not at 8am on a Tuesday in Bemis, West Virginia.

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