Rescheduling games in February creates logistical puzzle for Blackhawks, rest of NHL

The NHL will use the no-longer-necessary Olympic break to reschedule postponed games, but doing so won’t be simple.

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The Blackhawks have three home games that need to be rescheduled in February.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With its Olympic obligations out of the way, clearing three weeks in February, the NHL now has a window in which to reschedule its many postponed games.

But the logistical process of doing so requires solving a surprisingly complex puzzle. Each team has a varying number of games, against specific opponents in specific locations, that need rescheduling. And every arena has a varying number of non-hockey events booked throughout February, limiting the days available to reschedule games.

Given all that hosting a game with fans entails — ticketing, security, traffic management, parking, hotel availability, food and beer availability, arena worker availability, etc. — it’s complicated enough to do so for games scheduled since the summer. Arranging games on a month’s notice, especially sandwiched between other events, is even more challenging.

The NHL and its franchises will have no choice but to be flexible, though. The league began its rescheduling process this week, reaching out to teams to compile a list of each arena’s open dates within the newly opened Feb. 6-22 Olympic window.

In all, 48 postponed games need to be rescheduled league-wide — because out of the 50 postponed games so far this season, only one has been made up and only one more already has a new set date (in March).

More than just those 48 games are expected to be moved into February, though, in order to maintain schedule balance — the NHL doesn’t want some teams largely idle while other teams with more postponed games play regularly throughout the month.

Meanwhile, the NHL has also promised teams at least one free “bye week” during the window so players can still enjoy some time to rest and/or go on vacation, The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reported.

Blackhawks’ situation

The Blackhawks need new dates for three postponed games: at home against the Flames (originally scheduled for Dec. 13), at home against the Panthers (originally scheduled for Tuesday) and at home against the Stars (originally scheduled for Thursday).

The Hawks could fall into the category of teams that see additional games moved into February, too, but that’s hard to predict.

The United Center already has six Bulls games, a Christian rock concert and a rap concert booked during the Feb. 6-22 window, crossing eight nights off of the list. The vacant days during which Hawks games could presumably be scheduled are Feb. 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20 and 21.

The Hawks were already scheduled to resume post-Olympic play with a three-game homestand starting Feb. 25 against the Devils, so extending that homestand to six games sounds easy enough in theory.

The complexity of the puzzle confronting the NHL emerges, though, when considering the Flames, Panthers and Stars’ situations, as well.

The Flames — inundated by a massive COVID-19 outbreak — need six games to be rescheduled, including a trip to Nashville and four home games in Calgary in addition to their Chicago trip. Their home arena has four junior hockey games and one lacrosse game booked in the Feb. 6-22 window.

The Panthers need three games to be rescheduled, including their Chicago trip, a trip to Minnesota and a home game against the Predators. Their home arena has three concerts booked during the window.

The Stars need just two games to be rescheduled — at the Hawks and home against the Jets — but their arena has four NBA games and four concerts booked during the window.

Those three teams’ situations thus partially depend on the Wild, Jets, Predators, Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets, Ducks and Kraken’s situations, and the spiderweb spreads outward from there.

Jonathan Toews clearly wasn’t exaggerating when he said Tuesday the postponements throw “everything into a huge mess with our schedule.”

When the NHL will announce its new February schedule remains unknown, but that announcement could very well involve changes to the January, March and April schedules, too.

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