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Canucks might face their divisional rivals 8x a season – The Province

The NHL is looking at new iterations of the schedule, in an apparent effort to improve the bottom line.

A few visiting teams  drive ticket sales, like the Toronto Maple Leafs. But would Vancouver Canucks fans pay to see the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks four times per season?
A few visiting teams drive ticket sales, like the Toronto Maple Leafs. But would Vancouver Canucks fans pay to see the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks four times per season? Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

Would Vancouver Canucks fans pay to see the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks four times per season at Rogers Arena?

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That’s what the NHL is asking as they look at the schedule for the 2023-24 season.

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According to sports business website Sportico, the NHL is considering a schedule format for next season that would see teams play divisional rivals eight times per season.

Each division in the NHL has eight teams, which would mean each team faced their divisional opponents 56 times per season in total.

That would leave 26 games to divide between the other 24 teams in the league.

Changing to such a schedule would mean more intradivisional road games and less of the costly long-distance travel.

Do teams believe that familiarity with the opposition breeds ticket sales? That’s another principle that gets bandied about as a reason for a divisionally focused schedule.

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In junior hockey specific players can build a buzz for ticket sales, just as Conor Bedard has done for teams hosting the Regina Pats this year.

But whether that principle translates to the NHL is less clear, other than a few visiting teams that drive ticket sales, like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.

Finding efficiencies in the travel budget isn’t a new discussion point for NHL GMs and owners, though it didn’t come up at this week’s board of governors’ meetings in Florida.

A few teams have lobbied to schedule games between Central and Pacific Division in sets of two, rather than making two separate trips for solo games.

Teams have opposed the idea because of concerns about selling tickets for the same opponent in back-to-back games, a principle that would likely nix the idea of playing divisional opponents twice as often as they do now.

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Friday, ESPN reported the NHL has considered adding two regular season games, meaning every team would play 84 games in a season.

Doing so would allow for every team within a division to play each other four times in the season.  NHL teams currently face five of their seven divisional rivals four times a season, but face two divisional opponents just three times.

pjohnston@postmedia.com

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