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NHL, NBA seasons starting too soon is taking more notice

It’s that time again.  Time to take notice and realize that the NHL and NBA seasons start way too soon.  It could also be that they end in June, way too late.  Either way, they are burning the public out.  Their schedule is way too long.

Tonight is the NHL’s opening night and it feels like, your kidding, right, didn’t it just end like a month ago? 

The NHL has a laundry list of problems besides the fact that their greatest star, Wayne Gretzky, couldn’t make things work in the desert (Phoenix). 

How the NHL ever thought it would make it in any warm-weather climate is tough to figure out.  Besides their one good day, the New Year’s game outdoors, they have an obvious identity problem.   

The attraction to watching sports is seeing others who can play them better than you.  But for that to happen, you have to be playing or have played the game.

At any given moment after watching a game, a person should be able to play that sport outdoors.  The NHL would work best where ponds freeze over months at a time and kids go outside and play well into the late afternoon hours. 

As Soccer becomes more mainstream, both hockey and basketball will be forced to make changes.  Both will either have to shorten the amount of games played or the amount of rest between games so their seasons don’t wear down the sporting public’s interest. 

The NFL has shown itself to be the premier league in the country for many reasons.  One reason is because of the length of the season.  Everyone looks forward to football starting back up because its such a long offseason. 

Many sports fans don’t even pay attention to hockey and they are tiring of basketball because it is the same story line year after year.  There’s Kobe and Lebron, and the same cast of stale characters.  Add college hoops to the mix, and the sportsfan just feels innundated with b-ball to the point that they are looking for something different. 

This is where Soccer can come in and fill the gap to change the seasons for all team sports for the better.  The responsibility for Soccer making the intrusion on these other entrenched team sports and making it stick for years to come lies with those who can give Soccer the relevance it deserves in the American sports calendar.

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  1. Jay

    October 5, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Obvious NHL/NBA hater. Why are you worried about story lines? Its about the game not what some writers(who probably never played in either league) think.

  2. Jonathan

    October 3, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Why does football’s rise need to depend on the failure or regression of other “American” sports? IMO that kind of reasoning will only create antagonism from other American sports fans.

  3. jk

    October 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

    I don’t care that much about hockey but you are seriously complaining about the offseason in hockey and basketball being too short. Soccer in Europe goes from July (Uefa qualifiers) until the end of May. The offseason is like 6 weeks!

  4. CoconutMonkey

    October 3, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Well said Dave. Because of that, trying to compare MLS to the big 4 is pretty pointless. Football(American Footy), Baseball, Hockey, Basketball fans have much different priorities than the average soccer fan.

    For the Big4, it’s pretty clear cut. You win the championship, you’re awesome. If you make it to the championship game and lose, you still had a great, albeit heartbreaking, season. Plus you’re already won the conference or pennant. If you make the playoffs, you had a successful season. This is especially true for baseball and football. If you finish over .500 you can take pride in the fact that you didn’t suck balls.

    But for soccer, there’s a lot more ways to measure your success. Not only are you trying to win your league, you’re also fighting to qualify for international competitions, and in most places, fighting for promotion or against relegation. Not to mention, there’s all the domestic cup competitions to get excited about. For example, if Fulham finish 16th in the EPL but win the FA cup, I doubt fans would declare the season a failure. That would be sweet btw.

    Anyway, I think that’s the biggest problem MLS has. We have all the competitions, but I don’t think they’ve figured out what competitions are going to be high profile and which aren’t. And of course, us fans all have different ideas of what should be caring about. Not only that, the absence of a true football pyramid, and the fact that MLS, USL, and US Soccer, Concacaf and everyone don’t seem to play nice together make it all the more confusing for leagues and fans alike.

    Sorry for the long post.

  5. Dave

    October 2, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB are all the best leagues of their respective sports. MLS?

  6. Lars

    October 2, 2009 at 10:30 am

    How NHL ever thought they could make hockey work in a warm weather climate?

    Hmm, well, if you look at Carolina, it’s possible.

    Carolina has one of the best support bases for hockey in the NHL.


    Seasons are starting and ending too soon and late respectively, the NHL was playing the Stanley Cup game in June for christ sakes…

  7. Vnice

    October 1, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Rob…well said, man. I’m from Buffalo, and I know a LOT of Sabres fans that love them some soccer.

    Plus, I totally agree that MLS should succeed based in its own merits, not the failure of other leagues.

    At the end of the day, MLS is a small league. Let’s accept it, and grow it organically.

  8. sylc

    October 1, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    I agree with a lot of Rob’s points, being a fan of both soccer and hockey. While I do agree that the NUMBER of games in the NHL season is a bit excessive, the LENGTH of the season is not the problem (playoffs aside). I feel the same for the NBA, being a fan of the European variety.

    MLS should not depend on the shortcomings of other leagues to succeed. It’s shown it doesn’t have to.

    On your side note about Phoenix, I don’t think it will ever work there (and hopefully my Islanders will get a Lighthouse).

  9. Jayoh

    October 1, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Spot on Rob….also, I couldn’t agree more with djmk…good luck getting the people out in Denver to get more excited about the Rapids then the Avs…and last time I checked, the Leafs and Canucks have ridonculously long sell out records…obviously I am a huge hockey fan, but I love soccer too, I have heard this argument before, but i was just wondering why no one seemed to mention the epl schedule. Um, I’m pretty sure a schedule that goes from the end of May to the middle of August is what most would call…very very long, or we can put it this way, soccer is pretty much going on year round, so the argument of over-saturation is crap. Now, obviously once again it seems to just come down to preference. Personally, I think basketball is super boring, personally I don’t get all fired up about the new NFL season, and personally I love 162 games of baseball, I love soccer, I love hockey…and that’s my preference…other people like what they like, why do we have to defend the sports we love…Mitch obviously you are huge soccer supporter, that’s ok, I can respect that, I hope soccer takes off in this country, I say the more the merrier, but picking fights with other sports is not going to help the already soccer hating majority.

  10. Bob

    October 1, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    i like ice cream

  11. eplnfl

    October 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I have a lot of personal feelings tied up in this piece, but first let me refer anyone who thinks that soccer can be played in the winter months in the snow to the famous game in Dolphins history. This should settle the story if you have a open mind on this

    Now for the sports seasons running together I agree with the piece that hockey and the NBA have seasons way too long. The problem may not be the start but the extended playoffs that have a after life of their own well into next summer. The NHL and the NBA have their problems but they retain the places in the American sports scene. The issue for me a soccer fan is how the start of the European soccer season effects interest in the MLS. We have all seen and commented here about the Eurosnobs who once the Euro league kicks off can care less about MLS. Given the large amount of football that the Euro leagues have on American television and the well known quality MLS really becomes an afterthought for people.

    Soccer will continue to grow in the US but the obstacle is not the NBA or NHL but the EPL, SPL, and Italian league etc.

  12. allan

    October 1, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    i think mls should not be compared to leagues that play indoors. mls vs nhl is a stupid concept. 18.000 – 20.000 arena compared to 30.000 – 40.000 stadiums. im an nba fan and i dont mind the long season. if you love a sport you dont really get tired of it. who cares if kobe and lebron are the same old story. that type of rivalry gives the league some spice. the mls needs something like that and that’s something they dont have yet. im pretty new to the mls and thats why i read this blog and i find it a league lacking everything that the other big leagues have. i knew about european leagues since i was a kid in the 90s. i discovered the USA had a league until 2002 and didn’t pay much attention until they added Toronto FC(im not a fan of them BTW, i just live close). landon donovan & beckham is the only name outside tfc that i know.

  13. Charles

    October 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Obviously as a Seattle guy, I will never watch the NBA again and the Sounders did fill a gap, as the SuperSonics left and the NBA screwed Seattle.
    But come on, if soccer is to succeed it will NOT be because the other leagues fail. Soccer will succeed for a number of reasons.
    One, because any league will get the talent, as more money comes into the league. They HAVE to increase salaries however. Americans don’t support 2nd best.
    Two, because Americans don’t support losers, any league needs to have the NFL as the role model…not the EPL. Single table, with 15 perenial losers will not work here. Sounders would win every year ( good ) and the league would fold ( bad ). Parity and playoffs are exciting…period.
    As I side note, the MLS could take some lessons in generating excitement from the NFL too. Players marching onto the field holding kids hands is something my grandma would have loved. Maybe it works in a stadium of 15k fans, in Seattle, we are all left wondering if we should cheer as the other team comes out with our team, or boo while the other team comes out with our team.
    Third, even diehard, I hate soccer people, are starting to not want their kids to play football, because of the dangers. See the rise in lacrosse as an example and the rise in youth soccer as a bigger and better example.

  14. djmk

    October 1, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    mmmm lets see

    the rangers or the cosmos
    the leafs or the TFC
    the blackhawks or the fire
    the capitals (Ovechkin is going to dominate this year!) or DC United
    the avalanche or the rapids
    the stars or FC Dallas

    the canucks or the whitecaps….

    that’s a good chunk of the MLS league that can not compete with the NHL

  15. Rob

    October 1, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Mitchy Mitchy Mitchy… picking on Hockey fans is NOT a good idea.

    First, the problems I have with this article:

    1. I have a sneaky suspicion you have never played hockey. And if you have, you certainly cannot still play it to this day. Tough to write about a sport you don’t play or have a good amount of experience in.

    2. The “length of season” argument. The NHL season ended on June 12th (Full 7 game Stanley Cup series), 2009. It is starting tomorrow, October 1st, after three months and 19 days of “offseason.” The 2008 MLS season ended November 23rd, 2008. The 2009 MLS season started on March 19th, after three months and 29 days of “offseason.” You’re telling me 10 days is big in your book?

    3. The “attraction of watching sports” is not as much about watching people who are better than you at that sport as it is watching for entertainment.

    4. “Many sports fans don’t even pay attention to hockey and they are tiring of basketball because it is the same story line year after year. There’s Kobe and Lebron, and the same cast of stale characters. Add college hoops to the mix, and the sportsfan just feels innundated with b-ball to the point that they are looking for something different. ”

    And wheres your point for Hockey?

    5. To tie this all up, Hockey season has been running from September to March for a long, long time. Think like The Football League long. Every year since I was three years old (I’ll exclude the fact that I played summer hockey, which means I played all year round), the season would start in September, followed by games starting in October, followed by the season ending in March, followed by playoffs in April. Sure, the NHL playoffs go to long, I’ll meet you in the middle there. But know the sport before you try to stick it.

    Now, I’ll cut you some slack since you don’t know what you’re talking about, and let you in on a little secret.

    A lot of Hockey fans are soccer fans as well. For me, Hockey is #1 and Soccer is #1A. The degree of difficulty to play both sports is similarly high, and the cultures that come with it are each very distinct. The NHL and MLS are the lowest of the big five, in that order (do not mix that up), and both leagues and sports thrive when it comes to internet coverage. Its the NHL and MLS v. NBA/NFL/MLB. Pitting the NHL v. MLS will only make things worse, trust me.

    Also, for my last comment, who is taking notice of this so-called “problem” ? Just you? I think your blowing this out of proportion, Mitch. Please let me know what else you think.

  16. Fan

    October 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Typical dream-induced arrogance from a soccer fan.

    “Many sports fans don’t even pay attention to hockey”

    Even though last year’s playoff ratings were a marked improvement over 2008, the league got an extension from NBC and the league set an all-time attendance record last year? The Capitals have sold out every game this season before the first game even hit the ice.

    “and they are tiring of basketball because it is the same story line year after year.”

    The NBA had its third-best attendance in league history in 2008-09. Regular season ratings have increased for two consecutive seasons. Playoff ratings were up 11 percent from 2008 to 5.4 million viewers. Sure, ABC is cutting back its schedule for the league this season and the Finals rating dipped 4 or 5 percent, but I don’t see how higher ratings overall indicate that people are “tiring” of the sport.

    Soccer fans (and I am one of them, but I am also a sports fan) can say over and over again that other sports are falling in popularity and soccer will overtake them, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

  17. Ivan

    October 1, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Agreed. Looking at attendance numbers, MLS should overtake NHL as a major league sport. Now, if only MSL could tweak the season, follow the Fall-Spring format, w/ a 2 and a half month winter break, and finally move to a single table…Garber, Garber, are you listening???

    • Rob

      October 1, 2009 at 11:50 am

      15 MLS Home Games games per club compared to 41 NHL home games per club. Yeah, that is fair.


    • Fan

      October 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm

      If single table is such a deciding factor in whether a soccer league succeeds, why isn’t the USL more popular and why did the WUSA fail?

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