When the National Hockey League announced that they were putting on their own international hockey tournament, the World Cup of Hockey, they also announced that teams would get a week off at some point during the season. The bye week was a way to give players time off during the season since some of them would be playing competitive hockey while most teams were just slowly starting training camp. Teams rejoiced at the time off during the season since it would give teams time to heal injured players and regroup depending on how their seasons were playing out. Yet that is not exactly how it’s working out thus far for teams.
In theory, the time off during the midpoint of the season is great. It gives players and coaches time off to either heal injuries while spending much needed time with family or regroup if the season isn’t going as planned. So while players flew to tropical destinations or just took their kids to the park, little did they know how rusty they would be coming off the break. Plus most of the time, teams coming off the bye are playing teams that haven’t had time off thus giving them a competitive edge.
But as Adam Getz of NBC Sports points out in his article “The NHL’s bye week experiment still a work in progress” NHL teams were 3-12-4 coming off of their bye weeks and were outscored 60-23. Which in the grand scheme shows just how unprepared not only the teams were to have a week off but how little thought the NHL put into just how the time off would affect players.
During a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast after five teams coming off from the bye lost, the league is looking at its options on how to improve the bye week including an extended holiday break (the league is definitely not going to approve this option) or a more interesting improvement as suggested by Calgary Flames assistant general manager Craig Conroy, the conferences all takes its bye week at the same time and then only play a conference opponent thus eliminating the competitive advantage.
Ultimately the bye week is a detriment to player safety because you’re taking 82 games and trying to maintain the same length of the season as usual with a week off for 30 teams in the middle, it’s just going to make the schedule even tighter. Which means that players are going to be playing more games with little breaks towards the end of the season, which could lead to unnecessary injuries. So the league needs to take an aggressive look at the bye week format and figure out how to fix it without ruining the product their players put on the ice each game.
The theory is there, but the league needs to work on the execution of the bye week so that their product on the ice is the best it can be. Especially when the league is trying to gain even more fans in the United States.