Ramble On: Hockey scheduling 101

Ever wonder how some schedules are made? It can be crazy making a hockey schedule, but fun too.

Ever wonder how some schedules are made? It can be crazy making a hockey schedule, but fun too. I once had the opportunity to represent Golden at the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League schedule-making meeting for the Eddie Mountain division of the Kootenay Conference.

Here is how it works. A very detail-oriented (some may say obsessive!) person first has to make what is called a crossover schedule, in which teams from two conferences crossover into the other conference. This schedule has to be made first in order to ensure that a team travelling from, say Princeton in the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference, will have three games to play once they get to the Eddie Mountain or Neil Murdoch Division of the Kootenay Conference in order to make the most out of their travel time.

Then a representative from each of the five teams in the division sits down with their calendars. The reps each have certain dates already marked off representing times when their home arena is otherwise occupied and they are unable to play at home. Their first chore then is to find a team or two that can host them at that time. Then they start at the beginning date of the season when everyone wants their division rival to play their home-opener, which is why you often see a season begin with a ‘home and home’ series.

Often teams will have a weekend picked that they call a ‘family’ weekend, whereby they ask a nearby team to host them Friday night but schedule home games for Saturday and Sunday. The players’ families are all extended a special invitation to attend the three games that weekend, a team/public dinner takes place on the  Saturday night along with some kind of fundraiser, breakfast is made on Sunday morning, and you’ve got a very enjoyable weekend for players, families and fans.

From there on, it’s a matter of logistics. Each team has to play each other team in the division a certain number of times — half of those games at home, half in the other team’s barn. Everybody wants to play every weekend but weekday games are sometimes impossible to avoid.

And just when you think you’ve got it down, you spend some time socializing with the other team representatives and go home, but three days later you receive a phone call: the arena was booked in one location but nobody on the team was advised so now  you have to do a juggling act with three other teams so that team can go out of town. Your team may now be playing seven games in 10 days and you may not be happy but it’s the only way it’s going to work.

I can only imagine what it must be like to do a school schedule for 500 kids taking eight subjects. And yes, I have been the parent asking for a ‘simple’ schedule change for my child. But that was before I took on the task of helping to create a hockey schedule for a league!