ST. LOUIS — Players and coaches on both sides were unhappy about the 8:30 p.m. Central start Thursday for Game 2 of the Kings’ playoff series against the Blues, but there was nothing they could do because starting times are set by the NHL after consulting with the league’s various TV rights-holders.
A league spokesman said the later start time allows for nationally televised doubleheaders, with an Eastern time zone game leading off. Each Central team has one 8:30 p.m. local start time in the first four games of this round.
Thursday’s game is scheduled to be aired on CNBC.
Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock joked that he was worried the game will go past his bedtime.
“It had better not get to overtime or I’m going to be asleep on the bench,” he said. “The gap from now until 8:30.... There will be some good games on at 6 o’clock when we’re sitting in the [coaches’] office, twiddling our thumbs. It’s a long, long day. I’ve never seen anything like this, so this will be interesting.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said it would be “kind of odd” to have the usual pregame meeting at 7 p.m., and said the late start could have a harmful effect on the team’s travel.
The club is scheduled to take a charter flight back to Los Angeles after the game and arrive at about 2:55 a.m. Pacific time. Playing overtime would delay the departure from St. Louis and the return to Los Angeles.
“We know we’re getting home sometime between 2:30 and 4:30,” he said. “If there’s three overtimes you play two games tonight and you get home at 4:30. If you play one game tonight, we get home at 2:30.
“That’s sort of the next part of it, how you recover for your next game.”
Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Staples Center.
Fans with long memories might remember that years ago, when a circus took up long residence at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Rangers games would start at 8:30 p.m. And those late starts were accompanied by the pungent smells of the resident elephants.
The prospect of a late start apparently made Hitchcock a little giddy. Asked abut the difference between himself and Sutter, he gave a memorable response.
“In the summer he talks to cows and I talk to golfers,” Hitchcock said.
He didn't say which were the better conversations.
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