Last night, NBCSN picked up the CSN Chicago feed of game five between the Blackhawks and Blues. Game five, like games one, two, and four, began at 8:45 Central, or 9:45 Eastern. That is a late start time, and the late starts have been exacerbated by the fact that these are two teams who have played a close series, going to single overtime once and double overtime once. Last night's game didn't end until 12:30 Central, or 1:30 Eastern. That is late.
"Eddie, we've had a tremendous series between two great teams here. And it has been compelling theater: The two teams have been tied or one-goal games 96 percent of the time so far. But this is the third time in five games that a start time of 8:42 [p.m.] local was mandated. I can say with certainty: Players can not stand these late starts. Coaches can not stand them. Most importantly, the fans can't stand them.
"So as we approach midnight eastern - AGAIN - on a work night, a school night, a simple question: An 8:42 puck drop serves, who?"
Foley's rant hit the nail on the head - despite what NBCSN did to try to silence him, people viewing the CSN Chicago feed got the whole thing - scheduling games starting this late on a weeknight is not a good thing. It's difficult for people who have work or school the next morning to stay up until nearly 2 AM in some cases. Everyone realizes that this is for television purposes, but bumping the start time up to eight o'clock Central wouldn't necessarily be a difficult thing for NBC to accommodate. They can air games on NBCSN, CNBC, USA, or the NHL Network. There are regular scheduling concerns to be taken into consideration, especially on USA, but it can be done.
Instead, it's having the best series in the first round of the playoffs - one which involves the reigning Stanley Cup champions, no less - be turned off by people who can't keep their damn eyes open.
As Second City Hockey compiled, Bettman had things to say about Foley's rant: mainly, he "got it wrong."
Well, accurately, what Bettman said was this: "Mr. Foley didn't have his facts straight ... that everybody hates it. It was off the mark."
Excuse me, but the complaints from the fans have been nearly universal for this series. You expect a start time of nearly 10 PM Eastern for a West Coast game. You expect a start time of two hours earlier for a game taking place in the Central Time Zone.
You often hear anecdotes of players complaining that weird start times throw their routines off. It's not a stretch to think that team executives are complaining about lost exposure time due to late starts.
I understand that Bettman has to stick up for the league's decisions in this situation, but his response of "people are ok with this" is completely and demonstrably incorrect. Scroll through Twitter on a game night. Read comments on blogs. Check Facebook. Figure out what your fans are saying.
Realize that the marquee series of the first round is being screwed over by start times that make it difficult for people to watch.