We get that playing armchair scheduler is pretty easy. "Just match up X and Y on Z date," it's easy to shout from the sidelines, without having to take in to account all the other teams at a school, travel arrangements, facility needs, TV scheduling demands, etc. etc.
So we try our best not to be too hard on the scheduling. But when it comes to BC vs. BU, getting that right should probably be the first priority in men's hockey scheduling.
This year's BC-BU series will be on January 13-14, with the Friday night tilt at Agganis and the Saturday game at home at Conte Forum. For the third straight year, the Agganis game will be over BU's student break, and for the second straight year, the Conte game will be during BC's break.
In addition to depriving the fans in attendance and the TV audience of the great atmosphere that should accompany every battle for Boston, this is cutting out big experiences for BC and BU students that help lead to a lifetime of support for the sport. How many students at each school were introduced to the game by attending a BC/BU game, or were hooked by the atmosphere of the home game or the energy of making the green line trip to the away game?
I'm guessing it's a substantial amount. With matchups against each Hockey East team declining from 4 in the 90s and early 00s, to 3, and now to just 2, and with increased parity (which is good!) reducing the amount of BC-BU clashes in the Hockey East tournament, the amount of opportunities for these kinds of games and memories has decreased. For someone in the BU class of 2018, they might end up having
two home games against BC in the entirety of the seven years it takes them to complete their degree one home game while classes are in session against BC for the entirety of their four years in school. That's no good.
There's a conspiracy theory that they've scheduled this series over break intentionally to sell more $25-$40 tickets rather than cheap student tickets. Maybe. I don't buy it - I doubt the schools or Hockey East be that pound-foolish in the name of being pennywise.
We were in a pretty good rhythm under the previous scheduling format of having BC/BU the first week of December, then again for one game in late January. Since we've gone to 2 games against each opponent, it's been erratic and all over the place.
The first week in December date was pretty great - it sort of felt like the unofficial start of the business end of the season. The season had developed its narratives, we knew the teams relatively well, and we were inching toward midwinter. It felt right.
The party line seems to be that it's hard to pick the right weekend and that's sort of how we ended up with this one in recent years. The challenges are as follows:
-Historically, Hockey East's TV deals have been more back-heavy, with more games aired from January onward, reducing the likelihood of BC/BU getting on TV early in the year.
-Pretty much everyone agrees November is too early in the season. We had a few November games in recent years, and it just didn't feel right. Especially the year BC and BU were done playing one another on December 2.
-Jack Parker seemed to think that even December was too early in the season, and didn't like the first week of December date. (Though it's worth noting that he's retired now, so who cares?)
-There's a sense that the two teams shouldn't play one another in late January/early February too close to the Beanpot. (I don't know why.) Or in mid-February right after the Beanpot.
-March feels like too late in the season to wait.
And so we've ended up with this early January scheduling that comes smack dab in the middle of break.
Let us propose two alternatives:
1. Establish a tradition of a BC/BU home-and-home being the last game before the end-of-semester break in December. This year, that would fall on December 9-10. This would be a kind of cool tradition to establish - one team could carry bragging rights forth for the next month, and really end the semester on a high.
2. Split the games instead of doing a home-and-home. Have one in early December, and have the other in late February, maybe on the last weekend of the season (drama!). Then you don't wait too long for a BC/BU game, but also don't have the season series done too soon. BC and BU could end up playing a meaningful game at crunch time. Everybody wins.
I know scheduling BC/BU as a home-and-home has its merits - it's fun, and it makes scheduling easier. Maybe you could relieve the travel stress caused by splitting the home and home by looping in Northeastern and another team that's an easy drive - let's say UMass-Lowell.
Friday, December 2: BU at Northeastern, UMass-Lowell at BC
Saturday, December 3: BC at BU, Northeastern at UMass Lowell
Some other weekend Friday: BC at Lowell, NU at BU
Some other weekend Saturday: BC at NU, BU at Lowell
Friday, February 24: BU at BC, UMass-Lowell at Northeastern
Saturday, February 25: Northeastern at BC, UMass-Lowell at BU
I think we all agree that this plan is perfect and should be enacted immediately, yes?