The NHL's latest act of buffoonery is hitting some Edmonton Oilers fans right where it hurts: in the wallet.
After the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs came to a close with the New Jersey Devils' Game 7 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night, all eyes shifted to the Round 2 schedule as travelling fans hoping to catch their squad on the road began buying game tickets and booking flights and accommodations.
Following the conclusion of the first round on Monday night, the NHL released a schedule for the first two games of each series, although with times and broadcast information to be determined for Friday's games between Edmonton and Vegas and New Jersey and Carolina.
But something seemed amiss on Tuesday as the afternoon started rolling along without a full schedule in sight — an extremely odd development considering the second round was set to begin just hours later on Tuesday night. By late afternoon, the Round 2 schedule was finally dropped, with Oilers fans, especially those who already initiated travel plans, drawing an absurdly short straw.
Game 2 of the highly anticipated Edmonton-Vegas series was rescheduled for 5 p.m. local time on Saturday. Because of the sudden last-minute changes, plenty of fans who were either already on the way to Vegas or had travel and accommodations booked for Game 2 were left scrambling to change their plans, with many claiming to be out hundreds or even thousands of dollars after cancelling or rebooking things on such short notice.
Why did the NHL reschedule Game 2 between Oilers and Golden Knights?
The NHL never issued a statement explaining the change, but when you look at how the other series were scheduled things start to come into focus. And as per usual, this may come back to the Toronto Maple Leafs — or at least their second-round opponent.
George Richards of Florida Hockey Now wrote on Tuesday that it appears the league didn't want the Panthers' home game (Game 3) to conflict with the Miami Heat's home game on Saturday, so they moved that contest to Sunday. That then left a massive void on Hockey Night in Canada, which was filled when the Oilers game was moved to Saturday — the only NHL game on the slate that night.
It should be mentioned the Heat play in Miami, 45 minutes from the Panthers' home in Sunrise, and their game against the New York Knicks is at 3:30 p.m. ET. Formula One is also in town this weekend with the Miami Grand Prix, with the race scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday and qualifying running Saturday afternoon. Additionally, the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday at 6:57 p.m. ET and coincidentally Panthers owner Vincent Viola's horse, Forte, is the favorite to win the race. Following the Derby, another major sporting event is on tap with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers taking on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Although we don't know for sure these factors played into the decision made by the NHL, it's understandable why both the Panthers and the league would prefer to avoid any conflict and maximize viewership by holding that game on Sunday.
Oilers fans frustrated with last-minute change
Regardless of the reason for the last-minute changes to the second-round schedule, many frustrated Oilers fans took to social media and spoke to local and national news outlets to express their unhappiness with the league.
Yahoo Sports reached out to Kevin North, an Edmonton fan whose travel plans were sent into a costly tailspin. North described the chaotic few hours that followed Tuesday's schedule release — a similar scene to that experienced by many traveling Oilers supporters flying into Sin City for the second-round clash between the Pacific Division's top two squads.
"We left a Edmonton early (Tuesday) to come to Vegas. We flew through Calgary and when we arrived in Vegas there was talk that the second game was going to be changed. I had bought tickets on the Friday before when I noticed that Vegas was putting them on sale. I had faith that the orders would make it through so I bought tickets to Games 1 and 2 without knowing what days they were on.
When we finally found out the games were going to be Wednesday and Friday I booked my flight on Tuesday with a return to Edmonton on Saturday. When we arrived in Vegas, I had to add an extra night to my hotel and then phone and try to change my flight.
I wasn’t able to get out of Vegas directly to Edmonton on Sunday, so now I will be flying through Vancouver on a late flight arriving in Vancouver at 11 p.m. and then I have to take an overnight flight Monday morning to head back to Edmonton.
We figured the total extra cost of this change is around CAD$1,400."
The following tweets — and the comments flooding these threads — appear to capture the mood and sum up the feelings of the fanbase pretty well.
Here is the full schedule for VGK-EDM.
You’ll notice Game 2, originally scheduled for Friday, has been moved to Saturday. This is a colossal screwup by the NHL. Many Oilers fans have already travelled to Vegas and made plans for a Friday game.
To change now is amateurish. pic.twitter.com/5jkH37Idps
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) May 2, 2023
Bought tickets from Vancouver to watch game 2 in Vegas and fly back the next day. only to find out the game was moved so now I’m stuck doing a 1 day trip to Vegas to do shit all and watch game when I get back smh.
— Vikram Kaler (@vikramkaler) May 3, 2023
It’s insanity. This should have been saved in drafts for both scenarios of either NJ or NYR wining. As soon as game complete, please send. Ridiculous. Puts my trip to YEG in jeopardy now. Get it together @nhl
— Hypnotist MarcSavard (@marcsavard) May 2, 2023
So hard to put your finger on why this league seems Mickey Mouse compared to others, day before the series starts and they are still figuring out the schedule. Fans have made arrangements for travel and accommodations and the league is costing them extra money with this.
— Miles Coristine (@hckooks) May 2, 2023
Can confirm. Folks on the plane and around the hotels are mega upset.
Flights are all fully booked and any transfers are now 15hr flights and thousands of dollars
— Graham Mosimann (@GrahamMosimann) May 2, 2023
Some fans, however, aren't quite as sympathetic to the situation:
Seems kind of stupid to travel and make plans for an event before anything was finalized.
Shouldn’t make assumptions about something complex and fluid like playoffs in 2 different cities.
— Bulliwyf the Tank (@Bulliwyfthetank) May 2, 2023
Yeah totally sucks to have to stay in Vegas on a Saturday. What a kick to the nuts.
— Roddy Bats 13 🇵🇭🇨🇦 (@BigPapiPegCity) May 2, 2023
It should be obvious by now that TV broadcasters and certain owners run the show, with viewers often taking a back seat to that sweet, sweet cash, but this latest stunt from Gary Bettman and Co. — and the apparent lack of empathy toward your fanbase that led to these scheduling decisions — appears to be souring fans in Edmonton and beyond on a whole new level.
From not being able to figure out a best-on-best tournament for what seems like an eternity, to the NHL's digital board-ad debacle, to this latest scheduling snafu, it's almost impressive how this league keeps finding new ways to isolate the fanbase that pays the bills.
This goes beyond the game we all love, too, as perhaps the most egregious part of all this is the forced rescheduling of a Disturbed show due to the last-minute changes to the Edmonton-Vegas playoff schedule.
Fans of the group will now have to wait an extra day to quench their heavy-metal thirst. Have you no shame Gary? Have you no shame?