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Tony X, @soIoucity, gives his take on the NHL’s brutal schedule and the toll it has on the superstars, particularly compared to other sports

The NHL is an extremely brutal sport with 82 regular-season games on the schedule in the span of about 6 months, which actually doesn’t really seem that bad until you break it down.

The timespan of the NHL season is 186 days, which equates to one game every two days. When you factor in actually playing the game, morning skates the day of, and traveling to different cities, you have to be physically and mentally tough to get through it.


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Compared to the other major sports in North America, I can easily say hockey players have it the toughest in terms of actual games played, with the amount of physicality. And this isn’t even including the possibility of anywhere from 4 to 20+ added games if your team happens to make it to the playoffs, where the physicality ramps up tenfold over the regular season, and every hit or finished check could be the little bit that puts your team at a better advantage of winning.

Other Sports

Looking at the other four major leagues, the NFL, which is really the only sport of the big four that matches the physical nature of the NHL, only plays once a week on Sunday… Well, now also Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, but that’s another story for another day. MLB has the longest schedule of any of the top four sports at 162 games, but baseball, to say the least, is a non-contact sport. The NBA, when compared, has the same amount of games in the same timeframe as the NHL and is often said to be “rivals” of each other. These leagues are supposedly on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of sports. One is the “flashy” me-first league that has load management, and the other is the “gritty” the team is the only thing that matters, and I will play hurt league.

These are two of the extreme takes for each and are commonly battled in the replies of any major tweets about either. I love each for their different aspects. In the NBA, players have more control over their careers, playing time, etc. The NHL isn’t at that point yet.

The NHL’s Problem

The NHL has a problem, and I don’t know when or if it will ever be fixed. At the end of each season, reporters from each team will have exit interviews, so to speak, where you will learn about some of the injuries that players have been battling through just to stay out there with the team. Some are minor, but generally, at the end of each year, especially after the playoffs when players don’t want to miss any time, you will see multiple tweets with players having serious injuries. Just this past Stanley Cup final, there were multiple reports of serious injuries to superstar players.

Aaron Ekblad suffered through a broken foot that happened in the first-round matchup vs. the Bruins and also had two shoulder dislocations and multiple tears in his oblique. Matthew Tkachuk had a fractured sternum. This happened in game 3, and he still played in game 4 with the help of his brother Brady Tkachuk, who is a player on the Ottawa Senators, and other teammates from his Florida Panthers squad who had to help him get out of bed, dress him, and tie his skates. He decided not to play in the deciding game 5 because the pain was too much.


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When you look at these types of injuries, some are glorified into being “team first,” “non-diva,” “tough guy,” but how much are you actually helping your team when you can’t function at the level that you are used to? Of course, everyone late in the season is nowhere near 100%, but there has to be somebody to step in and save the players from themselves.