Isn't hockey a winter sport?

By Mike Jiggens, Special to Delhi News-Record

Today is June 25 and there may still be one last game of hockey to be played tonight to determine the 2013 Stanley Cup winner. As of this writing, the sixth game of the series had yet to be played on Monday, so maybe it was all over then. Regardless of when the playoffs officially ended, we’re still a mere few days away from July.

Is it just me or is it a bit crazy for hockey to be dragging on until late June? After all, it is officially the summer season.

I realize the labour dispute which prevented the season from starting on time is largely to blame. When both parties finally reached a compromise, a mini season was hastily put together so that some hockey could be salvaged. This meant teams had to play, on average, every other day to get 48 regular season games in before four rounds of playoffs could get underway. Anyone with handy access to a calendar immediately knew the Stanley Cup would not be awarded until well into June, and would set a new record for the latest date the trophy would be claimed.

Even as Canadian as hockey is, it’s hard to get excited about the game at this time of year. The first three months of the baseball season are almost in the books already and two of golf’s four majors have been played. Hockey seems to be dragging its heels.

I recall back in 1987 when the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup in a series which went the full seven games. The cup was awarded on May 31 which was the latest date it had ever been presented at the time. It seemed absolutely ridiculous that the hockey season could stretch out that late into the year. Oh, to be able to return to those days of yore!

When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine that the end of the season would one day coincide with the end of the school year. There was still a good month and a half of school remaining for us when the hockey season came to a close back in the 1970s.

Although the NHL will return to its usual starting date next season, the playoffs will still end about mid-June. The regular season needs to be scaled back about four games and efforts need to be made to reduce the number of off days between playoff games. There should never be any more than a single day of inactivity between games in the playoffs. These occasional and highly unnecessary three-day breaks between games begin to add up in a hurry, and a week-long wait from the end of one series until the start of the next is a bit extreme.

Hockey’s post-season traditionally runs concurrently with that of the National Basketball Association and, since several cities boast both an NHL and NBA franchise, scheduling of games may seem easier said than done. Still, there’s got to be a better way of tightening things up.

Hockey is supposed to be the great winter sport. Now it pretty much spans all four seasons.

These players will be reporting to training camp before you know it, about the same time kids return to classes in the fall.

Mike Jiggens is a Delhi resident. His column appears regularly in the Delhi News-Record


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