Compiling NHL schedule an art form
Did you know that the NHL employs a juggler? No, he doesn't keep three balls in the air or spin dishes on long poles. He makes the NHLís annual schedule.
If you've never had an 11-month migraine you can't imagine the headaches that precede the issuance of each season's schedule.
Steve Hatze Petros, the Leagueís Vice President of Scheduling, Research and Operations, slots 1,230 NHL games into 30 busy North American arenas, working around truck pulls, religious revivals, circuses, ice shows, concerts and other professional sports events.
Working under the supervision of Hatze Petros, Bill Bredin, the NHLís manager of scheduling and operations, huddles with team and arena officials to compile a schedule that must accommodate hundreds of date requests. He must work around some obstacles that occur every year and some that are once-in-a-lifetime deals.
Bredin has been doing this for years and the NHL has been in business since 1917 so he's not reinventing the wheel every year. But there are enough oddities in each season to make scheduling a long and difficult process.
"Some of our buildings have hosted, or will host, events like NCAA basketball and hockey championships," Bredin said. "Sometimes, an arena might be tied up by one of those events for as long as two weeks.
"The big concert tour this year will be Paul McCartney. Last year, it was U2. There a number of other events that can conflict with our requested dates, including the Grammys and the Emmys in the United States and the JUNO Awards in Canada.
The season will be in its early stages when work will turn to next year's schedule.
"We ask the teams in early November to submit their available dates for the following season," Bredin said. "We start entering the dates in November to be able to produce a schedule by early July.
"In November, we enter the dates and analyze them. We review each club's schedule with the club. Things come up after they submit their original dates so it can be a process of us asking them for a date here or there or they will ask for a date back for a late-scheduled concert or something like that."
The biggest competitor for dates is the National Basketball Association. The two leagues have a cordial relationship borne of many years' experience.
"We share 11 buildings with the NBA," Bredin said. "Boston is the only team in the Northeast Division. Atlanta is the only one in the Southeast Division and Chicago is the lone team in the Central Division. Colorado is the only conflicting team in the Northwest Division. In the Atlantic Division, there are also NBA teams in New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Washington. In the Pacific Division, we share buildings in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas. The Kings share the Staples Center with two NBA teams, the Lakers and the Clippers. I'm in regular contact with the National Basketball Association and we sometimes swap dates."
Surprisingly, college basketball, with its thousands of games each season, does not present much of a scheduling problem, Hatze Petros said.
The NCAA holds its league tournaments, regionals and finals in many of the same arenas that are used by the NHL. But the dates of those tournaments are known years in advance and Hatze Petros works around them.