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Post Column: NHL's short, tight schedule is bad for players

The ending of the 2012 season was bittersweet for National Hockey League fans throughout the country. At that time, fans waited in excitement for the playoffs, yet they also worried as the NHL’s labor dispute was not far behind. The dispute officially began Sept. 15 at 11:59 p.m. EDT, marking the second lockout in the last eight years.

Once Sept. 15 came around, fans suffered from withdrawal, having to wait a painfully long 113 days before any sign of progress was made between the NHLPA and the NHL. On Jan. 6, both sides had reached a tentative deal on a new collective-bargaining agreement, and six days later a Memorandum of Understanding was signed and the lockout was ended.

However, the damage might have been done by that point. The lockout has put the 2013 season three months behind schedule, and as a result, the season is now 48 games, as opposed to the typical 82 game season.

Many fans are just glad they will get to see hockey this season, regardless of when the season starts or how long it will last. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t ecstatic with the NHL’s recent return to action, but despite my excitement, I strongly feel that the NHL’s plan for the 2013 season is not a good one.

With the shortened schedule, the first drop of the puck took place at 3 o’clock on Saturday with a trio of games. The 2013 regular season will conclude April 27 — a little more than three months after it began.

There will be a lot of hockey played in a very small period of time. This is something that has caused quite a bit of concern league-wide. Issues of concern include the lack of a preseason and the absence of notable stars who are still playing overseas; people also believe injuries and illnesses could have a much more drastic impact because of the shortened length of the season.

In addition to that, people have wondered what the role of the backup goalie will be. For example, the Pittsburgh Penguins expect their backup goalie Tomas Vokoun to see more time than usual in net during the season. Another big concern is that players will become run down by their schedules. Teams will be playing roughly 16 games a month for three months, all before the playoffs. To put it mildly, the 2013 NHL season will be brutal on the players.

As a fan of hockey, I am happy to see it on TV again, but as a person who respects the game, I am not happy to see it played in such a way that games are being “jammed in” the schedule when the best goalies in the league aren’t playing as much as they should be, when early-season injuries can affect a team’s entire season, and when hectic schedules are preventing players from playing to their true potential.

That being said, I believe the NHL has two options; either they extend the season closer to the typical 82-game season, or even cancel the season completely. Hockey was not meant to be played as it will be in 2013. If the best players and teams can’t be playing to the best of their ability each time they take the ice, they should not be out there at all.

Christopher Miller is a freshman studying broadcast journalism and sport management at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Should the NHL extend the season? Email Christopher at cm001111@ohiou.edu.

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