How Many Months Is Hockey Season? [Updated!]

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It’s that time of year again. The Stanley Cup playoffs have started, which means we have to start thinking about hockey seasons and the ensuing goal-scoring opportunities.

As we’ve established, the season for my team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, starts at the beginning of October and ends at the end of April. Since the start of October was early last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not this year’s version will be any different from the ones that came before it.

Here’s the deal. For my money, any time spent outside of Canada during the winter is a loss of valuable time. Meaning there’s no such thing as an acceptable sweater weather. It’s cold enough outside, you’re going to be cold inside the frozen foods aisle.

That being said, this year’s NHL season has been, so far, an optimistic one. The league’s two-month break during the pandemic didn’t hurt either. Even the health concerns that have loomed over the last two seasons have provided some excitement, with the league going from a measly 8.9 goals per game in February 2020 to 14.3 in June of this year.

While the season still has a ways to go, there’s enough positive momentum to suggest this year could be special. This leaves me pondering the question: is hockey season always longer than you think it is?

The Math

In an ideal world, the answer to that question would be “no,” but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where teams need to fill out their active rosters by the end of the month, making them unavailable for playoff games. Where injured players can’t heal in ten days or two weeks, but need to recover in the best possible way, which means staying off of the ice.

Keeping that in mind, let’s dive into the mathematics of figuring out how long hockey season is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to that question, because the length of the season depends on a lot of stuff that’s out of our control. From the weather to the length of the game, to the number of days that teams are on the road, it all contributes to making this year different from any other.

Adjust For Weather

To start things off, we need to remember that not all the seasons are made equal. Some winters are longer than others and that has a significant impact on the length of the season. As we’ve established above, I don’t like spending time in the winter, so that makes me pretty much guaranteed to see the end of the NHL season before the start of summer.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “but J.D., it might be hot outside!” Well, maybe. But the fact is, we don’t live in a perfect world and there’s always gonna be something going on that effects the weather. From an ice storm in November to a foot of snow in April, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration.

That being said, we can make some assumptions about what will happen this year and what effect it will have on the length of the season. Meaning, we can figure out how long this year’s season is going to be by knowing how many months the seasons prior to it were. Meaning, if we assume that this year will be like last year, then we can figure out how long the season is going to be.

Length Of Game

Another variable that effects the length of the season is the length of the games. Obviously, the longer the game, the longer the season. That, however, doesn’t mean that every single game is going to be longer than the last. Remember, teams were only allowed to play a maximum of six games per week last year, so there are fewer games this year. Meaning, some may be shorter than expected.

The thing about the length of the season is that, although it can vary from year to year, it’s always gonna be longer than you think it is. Meaning there will always be plenty of opportunities to score a goal.

Days On The Road

Speaking of the length of the season, we also need to keep in mind the number of days that teams are on the road. I know, I know, road trips are fun, but they’re also pretty taxing, both physically and mentally, when you’re not used to traveling so much. Meaning, it might not be the best idea to take a road trip after you’ve been on the road for a while. This year, with the shorter season, teams are going to be on the road more, which means they’re going to be traveling for longer periods of time. That, in turn, means that they’re going to be more affected by the longer stay on the road.

In general, it’s not a good idea to go on the road during the season, because, well, you’re going to be on the road. The next best option is to stay in one place, which is what the Vegas Golden Knights do. They are one of the few teams in the league that don’t travel at all during the season, staying put in the “Valley of the Gods” and enjoying life on the road.

Playoffs

Speaking of the playoffs, we need to remember that they only happen every other year and, when they do, it either means the season is over or it’s just getting started. Meaning, it could be closer to the end than you’d think.

The thing about the playoffs is that they’re few and far between and the odds of making it there are pretty slim. Meaning, it’s not going to happen every year and we should enjoy it as they come.

More Time Off

Before we wrap things up, let’s talk about one more thing that affects the length of the season: the offseason. Yes, after the season ends, teams have some time off to relax and, presumably, recharge. Meaning, there’s less pressure to perform during the season, so they can focus on other things.

In the past, teams would use this time to improve their weaknesses, both physically and mentally, for the next season. Meaning, they’d get a good night’s sleep, rid themselves of excess weight, work on their golf swing, and review footage from the previous season, figuring out how they can do better in the next one.

These days, with less time off due to injuries and a greater focus on immediate results, teams aren’t going to have the luxury of improving their game, during those six weeks or so between seasons. Meaning, if they want to keep their jobs, they’re going to have to rely on younger, inexperienced players to carry the load. Which isn’t ideal, especially in today’s NHL. Where are the old-school hockey coaches, willing to mentor the up-and-coming defenders, waiting to step in when the veterans get injured?

To wrap things up, I think it’s safe to say that this year’s season is going to be different from any other. From the shortened schedule to the number of days on the road, it’s going to be longer than you think. Meaning, there’s always going to be an opportunity to put the puck in the net.

That, however, doesn’t mean that this year is going to be perfect. From the constant change in the sport, due to the growth of amateur hockey to the evolving health concerns, this year is bound to have its challenges, just like any other. Meaning, sometimes you’re going to have to work hard to score a goal and other times, you might not even be able to find the time to lace up your skates. Or stick handle, as the case may be.

Just like any other season, we’re still going to get the best of J.D. and Team Canada in the Olympics. Just like any other season, it’s still going to be awesome when the Maple Leafs win the cup. Just like any other season, there’s still going to be plenty of opportunities to put the puck in the net.

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