President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Yormark, assistant GM Randy Sexton and coach Peter DeBoer discuss the Panthers 2009-10 schedule.
Q: Pete, your thoughts having looked over the schedule?
DeBoer: “It looks pretty good considering the fact there’s an Olympic break and we’ve got a condensed time frame. I think it lays out fairly well. We get some significant time off when we get back from Europe, with a few short road games scattered in there. We’ve got a lot more back-to-back games than we’ve had in previous years, but that’s expected with the Olympic break and the shortened season. It’s layed out fairly well from a home-and-road point of view. We only go out west once this year. Last year we did it twice. I’m pretty happy with the regular season schedule.” Q: Does it seem to be more balanced than in year’s past? Your longest road trip is four games and your longest home stand in four games.
DeBoer: “Again, my first impression from looking at quickly when I received it and studying it a little more today was that from a coaching perspective I’m happy with it. I think it allows us some time to recover from Europe and training camp and exhibition, and the games seem to be spread out in a pretty good fashion that allows us, I think, to hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls of last year, the long losing streaks that seemed to hamper us at different points.”
Q: What are your thoughts on the back-to-back games? Are they a hindrance?
DeBoer: “I think it’s the reality of the NHL now. It’s something you have to deal with. And, again, I think you have to realize everybody is doing it. We happen to be in a spot in South Florida where, I would guess, we’re in the top five for travel in the league. So it’s a fact of life where we are and we deal with it. I don’t think it’s a positive or a negative.”
Q: You end the season with four of five games at home. Is that important to you?
DeBoer: “Well, let’s hope they matter. That’s the idea, right? The idea is you set the table during the regular season. Not many teams have a spot solidified prior to the last two weeks of the season, so I think that’s kind of the sprint to the finish and it’s nice our schedule is set. We’ll be able to be at home for those last six games. Now our job is to set the table to make sure those games matter.” Q: Randy, you’re thoughts on how the schedule lays out?
Sexton: “I think Peter summarized it quite well. It is an Olympic year so we all have to recognize that there are some sacrifices to make and we’re no different than any other team in the league. Some teams like to play more back-to-back because they think, depending on how the schedule shakes out; it gives them more practice time. Other teams like to play three in four because of practice time. Every team has different desires. At the end of the day the most important thing is, starting the season in Europe, we get a chance for our team to both physically and mentally recover from that, and we’ve got that. It’s a better balance of home-and-away distributed games than in the past. We need to seize that opportunity. And I think, lastly, the point Pete made is a good one, going into the last week of the season there’s an awful lot of playoff spots up for grabs and we hope to be in a position to really use the home ice advantage to our advantage to push ourselves into the playoffs.” Q: The break after the games in Finland, is that something you pushed the NHL for to make sure you had a chance to recover?
Sexton: “We made that point loud and clear, although the league has been going to Europe for a few years so they’ve had the benefit of getting feedback from other teams; what worked and what didn’t work…Everyone benefits from the players getting the rest because the teams we play want a worthy opponent and entertainment value for their fans. So if we’re rested and ready to go, we think we’ve got a terrific team for next year. But if the guys are playing a few days after returning from Europe with no chance to get acclimated with no practice time, it’s very difficult to make the switch.
Q: Michael, your thoughts from a marketing standpoint? You have Thanksgiving time, Christmas time and the New Year’s Eve game?
Yormark: “I think it’s pretty consistent with what we’ve had over the last couple years. We’re probably one of the first teams to sit down with the league and go over our schedule. They know the importance of having big games around holiday periods. We’re a vacation destination so it’s important we have games around Thanksgiving and we have the right opponents on holidays. With the Rangers coming in Thanksgiving eve and Toronto the day after, we think those are two very sellable games. We have the opponents we really wanted around the holidays, with Montreal and Boston and Pittsburgh and Carolina right before the holidays (on a Friday). So I think it works out really well. I think it’s a good balance between the hockey side and the business side and Pete and Randy were both sensitive to that.
“We needed something that was balanced. We’re very pleased from a business perspective. I think its one of the better schedules we’ve had. As Randy said, it’s a little more balanced than we’ve seen in the past. And that’s because we’ve worked it. We’ve been talking to the league about our schedule since last December, and we were the first team in their office to sit down with them and really make sure they understood what works for Florida and what opponents we need at what times of the season at what nights during the week. Considering it’s an Olympic year, we got as close to what we wanted as we could have.”
Q: You had a long homestand at the end of last season. Do you like it better this way where your home games are more spread out?
Yormark: “I do. It’s difficult when you have too many home games clustered to get a good show rate from your season seat holders. It’s tough for them to come to four or five or six games in a row in a short span. I think because it’s a little more well balanced, our show rate will be a little better, our single-game ticket sales will be a little bit stronger. And it’s also easier to sell groups. So we focused on that quite a bit. In March we have four consecutive games, which isn’t too bad, and, hopefully, the team will be in the playoff hunt and those games will be very important.”