All 30 NHL teams are set to get some time off in 2016-17 as the league has reportedly agreed to implement a five-day bye week for each club next season as part of the agreement by the NHL Players Association to change the All-Star Game format to 3-on-3.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday evening that the league’s schedule makers will build in a five-day off-week for each team between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 next season. The off-week, LeBrun wrote, would see players completely free from duty with the team. Team’s with a game the day following the bye week would be allowed to practice, “after 4 p.m. local time on the fifth day…otherwise no practice will be allowed on the fifth day,” according to LeBrun.
The five-day break was something that players had asked for as part of the All-Star Game negotiation, LeBrun added. It’s an interesting addition to the schedule, but one that makes great sense considering the amount of hockey to be played next season.
With the addition of the World Cup of Hockey, which is slated for September 2016 in Toronto, a player could potentially play as many as 118 games in 2016-17.
Hypothetically speaking, if Team Canada were to play the entire round robin, win their semifinal game and take all three games to win the World Cup and were the Pittsburgh Penguins to play the maximum 28 games in the post-season, Sidney Crosby could realistically play the rough equivalent of one and a half seasons over the course of one NHL campaign. That’s an 82-game regular season, 28-game post-season, seven games at the World Cup and one more contest — but an entire weekend — for the All-Star Game. That is a lot of hockey.
It’s not altogether a new idea to give off weeks, though. The NFL, of course, already gives its teams a bye week each season. International breaks are also common in soccer. A similar set up has been used in hockey, too. Some European leagues give breaks for competitions that take place throughout Europe. For example, the Swiss NLA gave players a 10-day break to begin November, though that was partially for players to participate in the Champions League and Deutschland Cup. The KHL had a similar break in its schedule, too.
It will be interesting to see how the NHL implements the break and how teams respond coming out of the rest period. But regardless of either, bye weeks are coming to the NHL in 2016-17.