Boredom stemming from the NHL lockout will evolve into excitement as soon as the regular season is underway.
Not just any excitement—not the kind of rush hockey fans receive from the typical season opener. No. Thanks to the shortened season, every single game’s importance is amplified and that’s why this will be one of the NHL’s most entertaining years in recent memory.
According to Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports, the 2012-13 campaign will kick off on Jan. 19 and will be cut down from 82 to 48 games. Steve Ladurantaye of The Globe and Mail also reported that the regular season will likely end in early May with the playoffs lasting all the way until the end of June—potentially June 25.
First off, fans suffering from hockey withdrawal are naturally going to be more thrilled than usual about the start of the regular season. As a result, NHL ratings are sure to skyrocket.
One month after the NBA had begun its regular season after the 2011 lockout, NBA on TNT’s ratings were up 67 percent and NBA TV’s ratings were up 68 percent, according to Robert Seidman of TV by the Numbers. Bill Simmons of ESPN reacted to those numbers by writing, “Here's the weird part: The product itself hasn't been good.”
The basketball play itself may have not been spectacular compared to other years. However, besides fans starving to watch their favorite sport, another reason behind those ratings is—again—the value of each individual game.
A shortened season changes everything. Just imagine if the 2011-12 NHL campaign had been cut by not even 34 games, but just 10.
In their last 10 games of the regular season, the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings flipped the switch and went 5-2-3 to sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed.
If the season had ended 10 games earlier, they wouldn't have made the postseason—the Dallas Stars would have claimed the eighth seed. The Stars went 3-7 in their last 10, allowing the Kings to leapfrog them in the standings.
In a shortened season, teams have less time to get their act together. If they dig themselves a hole early, they have significantly less time to dig themselves out.
Mathematically speaking, each game this regular season will be 1.7 times more valuable than it would be in the average 82-game campaign. That’s why hockey fans should be hyped right now.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.