The National Hockey League is internally considering expanding its slate of regular season games each year from 82 to 84, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported Friday.
The league has reportedly discussed multiple different options to change its scheduling practices after some of its member clubs took issue with the “imbalanced number of divisional games against rivals” under the current system.
The NHL previously operated with an 84-game schedule from 1992 to 1994, using the extra games to scout neutral sites for the purposes of potential future expansion.
The 82-game layout has been the standard ever since, with the exception of seasons shortened due to lockouts (1994–95, 2012–13) or the COVID-19 pandemic (2019–20, 2020–21).
Under the current setup, each NHL team plays the 31 others at least twice per season. Every team travels to each other NHL city once per year, at minimum. This season, teams face out-of-conference opponents twice, in-conference but out-of-division opponents three times, and division rivals either three or four times.
A Sportico report from earlier this week indicated the NHL was looking for ways to increase the number of meetings between division rivals each season. The report singled out this year’s season series between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers (two of the NHL’s fiercest rivals), which consists of just three games out of 82.
Per the ESPN report, the NHL would keep its current schedule format largely unchanged under an 84-game system. Teams would continue to face non-division rivals either two or three times per season, with the extra two games created specifically to make regional matchups more frequent.
It’s also possible that the preseason could be cut down to fit in the additional games. The National Hockey League Players’ Association would need to sign off on any changes to the schedule.
Wyshynski said the topic of extending future seasons is expected to be on the agenda when the league’s GMs convene for their annual meeting in March 2023.
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