Out of the blue, the New Jersey Devils announced on Twitter a change to their 2017-18 regular season schedule. Their home opener against Colorado on October 7 will now start at 2 PM ET. It was originally scheduled at a standard 7 PM ET start time. It is now an afternoon matinee.
I would imagine the reaction to this time change will be mixed. After all, the team has had this first home game of the season starting at 7 PM since they announced the game back in June. I understand that some fans are usually busy during the afternoon, whether it is from work, travel, family, or other commitments. They will be understandably unhappy about the time change. On the other hand, the 2 PM start time may be more favorable for other fans. A Saturday afternoon game that will end at about 5:30 PM allows the night to still be free to do other things. The earlier start time will draw those fans to come to the game; perhaps enough to make up the difference from those who can now no longer go.
I’m personally fine with it. I’m not going to say no to writing up a game recap in the early evening as opposed to near midnight. But that’s just me. I’m hardly representative of the fanbase.
A more interesting question to ask is why this time change is being made. The key part of this Tweet is that this is “Per the NHL’s decision.” I do not know what may refer to or what is behind that decision.
But I can guess. It just so happens that a 2 PM ET start time is an 8 PM start time in Switzerland. It just so happens that the New Jersey Devils have the first ever Swiss hockey player that went first overall in a NHL Draft. His potential NHL debut could be a big deal in his home country. I wouldn’t think it is that much of a coincidence that the NHL wants Hischier’s debut to be more easily watched by his family, friends, and compatriots in Switzerland. I think that is a valid reason, too. For all of the laments about the NHL and developing “stars,” this is a move that can help make one. A lot of it is up to Hischier (like making the New Jersey roster), of course, but the league making a move to make him more prominent is a step in that direction. And it is better to make this decision now as opposed to a few weeks before the game. It’s a guess but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is more than just coincidence.
Additionally, a quick peek at the full schedule at NHL.com shows that there are a total 15 games on October 7. All but one team is playing on Saturday. All of those games start at 7 PM or later relative to the Eastern Time Zone. While this game will not be nationally televised - and probably should not given the state of both teams, having this game moved to the afternoon allows the league to sell the first Saturday of the season as a fuller day of hockey action. That’s probably a lesser reason and more of a coincidence.
Anyway, that is what I’m guessing is the rationale behind this time change. I want to know what you think about it, though. Will you attend the home opener at the new 2 PM ET start time? Do you think there is enough notice for this time change? Why do you think the NHL decided to move this game up? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this schedule change in the comments. Thank you for reading.