So the AHL schedule is finally out and I’ve had a bunch of people ask if the 2013-14 slate is a “good” one.
There are a couple of ways to look at the schedule and from a fan and business side, I think the schedule is really good.
If you look at the balance of games in each of the seven months, it is very equal, with the exception of October while the BMO is going through the final stages of another renovation (four home games, seven away games). The most attended games are Fridays and Saturdays, and of the 38 home contests, 26 fall on one of those two days.
Throw in four Sunday outings and nearly 80% of the IceHogs 2013-14 home schedule will be played on the weekend.
Even the week day dates should be strong from an attendance standpoint. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 27) is always a strong draw as are dates between Christmas and New Years (this year the Hogs are home on Monday, Dec. 30).
Although not convenient for the working class fan, the IceHogs are hosting a school day game for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 11 a.m. and this game should have over 5,000 fans in the building. Throw in the traditional Martin Luther King Jr. day game in the mix (Mon., Jan. 20) and four of the eight midweek contests should be strong.
Now from a team standpoint, there are some quirks as there always are when looking at a 76-game minor league schedule.
Because the schedule has been extended by a week (two years after it was extended by two weeks and reduced by four games), there are some light stretches without any games. For example, in a 12-day stretch from March 9 through March 20, Rockford plays just one game.
Twice during the 2013-14 season, Rockford will play the Milwaukee Admirals three straight times (Jan. 24-26 and March 7-14.)
With Iowa back in the league, this creates a little rougher travel schedule for Rockford, especially since Rockford is the closest AHL market to Des Moines. The IceHogs will have six quick turnarounds to or from either Iowa or Grand Rapids, with games the following day. Last season, the IceHogs had three such turnarounds from Grand Rapids.
Three more doesn’t sound like a lot, but the season truly is a grind, so all these little things add up, especially rolling into a town at 3 a.m. the morning before a game.
Back to the fan perspective/business side of the schedule; the IceHogs have 11 stand-alone Fridays and Saturdays in 2013-14. The IceHogs longest homestand is four games, which occurs twice (Dec. 27-Jan. 4 and Feb. 4 to Feb. 14). After a season-high five-game road swing to start the season, the IceHogs won’t play more than three straight tilts away from the Forest City. That’s a nice spread of games and easier on the fans.
In football, a lot is made about strength of schedule. It’s hard to gauge that in a 76-game hockey slate, so the most important thing is not who you play, but when you play them. Every team goes through ups and downs. So I’m not going to even try to breakdown opponents.
With that said, the season is almost here and it’s time to start planning!