Breaking Down The 2010-11 Schedule
08/26/2010 3:44 PM - Mike Peck
When looking at an 80-game regular season hockey schedule, it’s hard to breakdown it down and make predictions on how a team will do because of the length of the schedule. There are too many ebbs and flows during a long season so it makes it more important when you play a team.
For example, Rockford will play Abbotsford in three of their first six games and then won’t face them again until Feb. 5. Both teams will be drastically different on Feb. 5 then they will be in Oct.
So when I look at the IceHogs schedule once it’s released, I try not to judge its “strength of schedule”, I look at travel trends throughout the 80-game slate, and clusters of games.
I do have to preface the rest of this post with-Every team in the AHL has quirky parts of their schedule. I’ve never been involved in the schedule building process, but I’m sure it’s an extremely tedious and strenuous task.
A couple of quirks in Rockford’s schedule this season include a Saturday night game in Texas on Feb. 12 and a Sunday afternoon game in Milwaukee the next day at 5:05 p.m. Two weeks later the Hogs make a similar swing as they play at the MetroCentre on Saturday, Feb. 28 and then in Houston on Feb. 27.
The game on Feb. 27 marks the beginning of Rockford’s longest road trip in the franchise’s 12-year history when the team heads out on an 11-day road trip through March 10. The trip begins in Houston, where the IceHogs will play a pair of games, before heading north to Lake Erie for two straight against the Monsters in Cleveland, and then finishes in Ontario against Toronto and Hamilton.
Another oddity is that we have six Saturdays off this year. After beginning on Sunday, Oct. 3 last season, the IceHogs played every single Saturday up until April 10.
Overall I believe the IceHogs 2010-11 schedule is decent. It gets a little heavy after the All-Star Game, which is the opposite from last season when Rockford played the most games in the AHL through mid-March.
The one positive about a back-end heavy schedule for Rockford this season is that the team is going to be very young. There could be up to three 19-year-olds and two 20-year-olds on it. With a lighter Oct. this year (nine games compared to 13 in 2009), it will allow these young skaters and other rookies to warm up to the pro game a bit.
It is pretty typical for young teams to struggle on the road, and this might pose some issues for the IceHogs late as six of the team’s final eight regular season games are away from the MetroCentre. All but one of those road tilts are against West Division opponents, so if the Hogs are battling for a playoff spot, those are going to be crucial games.
I’ve already had a few people ask about the 4:35 p.m. start time on Opening Night (Day). We moved the game time up to compensate for the Blackhawks home opener. We are in the process of planning some events around Opening Day and should have an announcement within the next week or two.
Another change to the home schedule for the IceHogs this season is the midweek game times. All midweek games, with the exception of the two kids’ day games, will start at 6:35 p.m. Midweek games are a necessary evil and there isn’t a team that doesn’t struggle to fill the stands at the minor league level on these dates.
Some teams in other leagues have seen a nice little spike in attendance by moving their game times up a bit on weeknights, so we figured that we’d give it a try. Plus, it’ll be nice getting out of a game around 9 p.m.!
From a front office standpoint, the schedule should set us up for another good season at the gate. There is just one Friday night home game (Oct. 22) in the first two months of the season, meaning the IceHogs won’t have to compete against high school football a whole lot this year.
The NFL is also very difficult to compete with and the IceHogs will play just two Sunday games during football season (Oct. 10 and Dec. 26).
Saturday’s after the New Year are the money makers in minor league hockey and Rockford has nine of these dates in 2011. Last season, Rockford averaged 5,525 fans in eight Saturday’s after New Years Eve, that’s a 95.8% capacity at the MetroCentre.
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