I think these 8:30 pm start times for Blues playoff games are getting a bad rap. Everybody grumbles. No one mentions the positives.
What better place to defend their honor than in a column that, because of another late start Friday night, was due before a massive playoff game ended?
Thanks, NHL! Thanks, Disney! Thanks, Turner Sports!
Thanks, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and the TV suits who continue to make these decisions no matter which network carries the Stanley Cup playoffs!
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Thanks for what?!
You are more frazzled than the video editor who has to bleep out all of Blues coach Craig Berube’s curse words in those behind-the-scenes postgame videos the team posts following every win. You are more surly than Kelly Chase and Tony Twist in that new Stifel commercial, in which they pull broadcaster Darren Pang over the bar. If you ran into Bettman at your bar, you might try that move. You are a playoff hockey zombie. You just want Blues playoff games to start at a decent time. You can’t understand how two teams that call the Central time zone home will start four of their first five first-round games at 8:30 pm
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And they don’t really start at 8:30 pm
That’s the other thing. That’s what time they are “supposed” to start. But they always start late. Always.
Martin Kilcoyne, the KTVI (Channel 2) sports director, said it best. The 8:30 NHL playoff start time is like having friends over. No one shows up when the invitation says the party starts.
But have you considered the hidden benefits?
Fan team bonding. Sports fans love feeling close to their favorite athletes. There are countless fantasy camps and meet-and-greets because of this desire. One of the questions you encounter most as a sportswriter is, ‘Hey, what are these guys really like?’ I can tell you that you have never been closer to your favorite Blues players than you are while waiting for these late puck drops. They hate it as much as you hate it. Coaches hate it. Team officials hate it. It stinks for all involved. You are basically part of the team. Cool, right?
Increased safety. How many times have you been tucked in bed, snug as a bug in a rug, only to hear a concerning bump in the night? You wonder, should I get up to check? Did I set the alarm? Is that Cardinals giveaway bat with the fake Randal Grichuk signature still leaning against the wall in the closet? Is a raccoon in the trash cans again, or could this be real trouble? (That’s not to say a racoon can’t be real trouble.)
When the Blues play deep into the night, there is significantly less to fear. Not only are you awake, you are all hopped up on caffeine and that special strain of playoff hockey energy, the kind writer Jon Bois once compared to riding a motorcycle out of a helicopter after using illegal substances. You’re not falling asleep for at least an hour after the game ends if it’s a close one, so that’s even more time of enhanced home protection. Troublemakers probably are cursing these late starts. They are spoiling troublemaker schedules. They are increasing the chances troublemakers walk in on someone who is just itching to try out a cross-check.
Relationship improvement. You have time to kill. Put it to good use. Pick one task every late-night start and do it before the game begins. Wash the dishes. Fold the laundry. Change that light bulb that has been out since the Obama administration. It will stop you from falling asleep in the recliner before the action begins. And when your significant other wakes up the next morning, you will be a bigger hero than David Perron was in Game 1.
Money banked. One of the most common flus about these late starts is that they make it hard, especially on the school nights, for young kids to watch and/or attend games. And that’s 100% correct. But hear me out. The fewer kids there are watching games, the fewer kids want to play hockey. That could equal some serious dollars saved for parents. Hockey can get expensive. Gear costs a lot. Travel teams can run up quite a tab. Fewer young eyeballs on these games can mean more funds in mom and dad’s account. With this inflation, that’s a win. What’s bad for the game of hockey could be good for an anniversary vacation. And if you pick somewhere on the West Coast and go around this time next year, maybe you can see a Blues playoff night game start at 6:30 pm What a concept!
Workplace awakening. Let’s be honest. You’re mailing it in. Playoff hockey zombies barely get by. They get in a little late because of a lack of sleep. They leave a little early, aiming for a nap before their next nocturnal night. They hope no one notices, and chances are, no one notices, because so many are in the same boat. Don’t overlook the big takeaway from this. It’s working. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to work so hard after after all.
These late starts are trying to teach us life lessons, people.
If only the kids were awake to learn them.