It's been a long few months, but the hockey season is almost upon us. Training camps open today, then preseason games kick off on Saturday (with not one but TWO Oilers games), and then, a mere three weeks from today, the regular season will finally start when the Oilers host the visiting Winnipeg
Jets Thrashers. Packed into the next three weeks will be an unhealthy amount of time spent obsessing over the tiniest details, possible roster combinations, and of course Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' shoulder.
What you shouldn't lose sight of though, is that there will actually be hockey games played when training camp ends and you need to get your tickets in order. This is where I come in.
As a season ticket holder I breakdown the schedule every year in order to figure out what games I want, and which ones I'm happy to pass on. I have in previous years tried to attend each and every game (I think I made it to 39 including preseason games one year), but that is an unbelievably time consuming endeavour that, given the quality of the team on the ice, really isn't worth it, and so I've started planning my season a little more. And since I'm a nice guy I thought I would share that planning with you. If you're a season ticket holder you can use this information directly when splitting up your tickets. If your company has tickets, or you know a season ticket holder who you get a couple games a year from, you can use this information to get the best game(s) possible. Or maybe you just want a glimpse inside the mind of Ryan. There is really something here for everyone.
This season I'll be taking a slightly different approach to the games I want to attend, focusing more on the day of the game and how it fits into my calendar, than I have in recent years. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, with the Oilers looking more like a playoff team and less like a slightly above average AHL team, I don't have to consider the opponent as much when trying to find a game worth watching. Also, with the new schedule format every team in the league visits Edmonton every season, so I no longer have to wait two (or before that three) years to see the Eastern Conference team I missed this season.
This means I'll be trying to avoid going to all the games in some of the Oilers longer home stands. Four of these jump out at me.
|December 3 - 12||10||5|
|February 27 - March 9||11||5|
|March 18 - 30||13||6|
|April 6 - 12||7||4|
The last home stand is the most interesting. Four games in seven days is a busy week, but those are also the last four games of the year, so if the Oilers are battling for a playoff spot those could easily be the most exciting games the Oilers have played since June 2006, and if they're long since out of the playoff picture it'll be another slow march to the finish line. Balance your risk/reward accordingly.
Streaks aren't the only thing worth considering though, you have to think about the day of the week. This season the Oilers schedule is a little light on weekend games, so be sure to weight those appropriately.
If you've got a regular Tuesday night activity, you might want to consider trying to reschedule it. I really wish there were a few more Friday and Saturday night games, but I'll have to make due with Thursday I guess. That's just one day away from the weekend, right? I see some slow and slightly blurry Friday mornings in my future. I know I don't have to drink beer at Oilers games, but come on, that's like asking Edmonton's media to skip their morning snack.
A quirk of the schedule that I only noticed when putting this together is that the 7:00 start is now a thing of the past. With the exception of opening night and the Wednesday, November 13 game versus Dallas, every Monday to Friday game starts at 7:30; the other two start at 8:00. Saturday night games start at 8:00 as well, and Sunday games start at 6:00. If you liked the family friendly Sunday afternoon games you're out of luck. I have to think 7:30 starts won't be great for families with kids either.
The Oilers have confirmed a couple of promotion nights already as well. Fan Appreciation and Shirts Off Our Backs are always a couple of games I try to make it to.
|October 24||vs. Capitals||Rally Against Cancer|
|December 12||vs. Bruins||Shirts Off Our Backs|
|January 24||vs. Coyotes||Hockey Talks|
|April 8||vs. Avalanche||Fan Appreciation|
I think Fan Appreciation night is a little later in the season this season, than it has been recently. Maybe that's a sign that the team is confident that they'll be playing games that mean something at that point of the season. I sure hope they're right.
I'm not going to entirely ignore the visiting team in this exercise though. Calgary comes to town three times this season, each time on a Saturday night. Those are must see games. Here are a couple others I think are must sees.
|October 10||vs. Canadiens|
|October 29||vs. Maple Leafs|
|December 12||vs. Bruins|
|January 10||vs. Penguins|
|March 28||vs. Ducks|
|April 6||vs. Ducks|
Montreal and Toronto need no explanation. Those are the nights that the visiting fans are the loudest. If you choose not to go to these your ticket should get you a very nice return. The December game versus Boston will be the first chance Oiler fans have to thank the Bruins in person for knocking off the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup; the Bruins last came to town in February of that year. The January visit from the Penguins will see Sidney Crosby play here (assuming he's healthy) for just the third time despite the fact that he'll have played more than 500 career games by that point of his career. And then a couple games against the Anaheim Ducks. Maybe not must sees for everyone, but those will be the last times Teemu Selanne skates against the Oilers. I don't about you, but I'll be there for sure.
That's it in a nut shell. How you use this information is up to you.