Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

When will the season start?

Throughout all 113 days of craziness during the NHL lockout, I’ve felt terribly for all those who have lost income from their involvement near the game - arena workers, parking attendants, ticket brokers, salespeople and league and team employees.

When will the season start?

Philadelphia Flyers´ Claude Giroux, left, and Jakub Voracek, right, celebrate a goal by Scott Hartnell against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux, left, and Jakub Voracek, right, celebrate a goal by Scott Hartnell against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

Throughout all 113 days of craziness during the NHL lockout, I’ve felt terribly for all those who have lost income from their involvement near the game - arena workers, parking attendants, ticket brokers, salespeople and league and team employees.

On Sunday, I just feel for Steve Hatze Petros, the man responsible for slotting 700 or so games into a matrix as the NHL’s vice president of scheduling.

Hatze Petros has not only been responsible for refreshing an outlined schedule at every turn in negotiations, but now he needs to do it for real. And he needs to do it in a matter of hours. It usually takes the NHL months to put together a season schedule, haggling with teams and arenas on open dates and available times.

The NHL shares 11 buildings with the NBA and nearly every one of them with incoming concerts, circuses and anything from ice capades to rodeos.

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It may take a while (even days) for the NHL to announce anything concrete, but here’s what we can glean from league sources and other reports:

> The NHL will play either a 48-game or 50-game season. Both formats appear to be inter-conference only, meaning the Flyers will only face Eastern teams (including Winnipeg).

> According to the Canadian Press, if it’s a 50-game season, the schedule will feature 5 games versus each division rival (20), plus 3 games versus each conference rival (30).

> Also according to the Canadian Press, if it’s a 48-game season, the schedule will feature 4 games against two division rivals (8), plus 5 games against the other two division rivals (10), plus 3 games versus each conference rival (30).

Clearly, the more balanced 50-game schedule would appeal to everyone, including players (2 additional game checks) and teams (one additional home date). It’s all dependent on the ratification of the new CBA by both sides. 

Now, the question everyone wants to know: When will this all start?

> According to a league source, the Flyers would likely be expected to begin a 50-game schedule on the road on either Jan. 15 or Jan. 17. (The Sixers are home vs. New Orleans on Jan. 15)

> With a 48-game schedule, the Flyers would likely begin - as previously reported - at home on Jan. 19 with a nationally televised rivalry game against Pittsburgh at 1 o’clock. (Penn State plays Vermont at 7:30 in men’s hockey at the Wells Fargo Center)

Please keep in mind that this is all fluid. Nothing can be reported as gospel at this point, as a Taylor Swift concert in St. Louis or Tampa, Fla., could throw off an entire matrix.

There are not expected to be any preseason games on the schedule, even though a few players would likely appreciate them.

With a scheduled start on Jan. 15 or Jan. 17, training camps would need to open by either Tuesday or Thursday, which may be a tall order given the amount of paperwork that needs to be done to vote and sign-off on a 750-page contract. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the Board of Governors are tentatively scheduled to convene on Tuesday in New York to vote. NHLPA vote would likely occur electronically.

For now, Flyers are beginning to trickle in from overseas. Jake Voracek did not appear in his game for HC Lev Praha on Sunday. Danny Briere has already returned from Germany and said he will have his injured wrist (suffered Dec. 28) checked out this week. Ruslan Fedotenko played regular minutes for HC Donbass in Russia on Sunday, but he will be on his way back soon.

Also, no word yet from team officials on tickets or the Flyers' training camp roster.

"We were informed earlier this morning that the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association have reached an agreement. As details concerning the schedule become available to us, we will release further information concerning the resumption of play," Flyers president Peter Luukko said in a statement on Sunday. "Our organization is very excited for our players, our coaches and, most particularly, our fans and we look forward to playing hockey again shortly. The Philadelphia Flyers are extremely grateful to our loyal and dedicated fans who have shown tremendous patience and support during this process. We will refrain from making any additional comments at this time."

Stay tuned. This is going to be a wild ride.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

About this blog
Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Sports Columnist
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