The 2023 NLL schedule has been announced. I’m sure there are fans of every team screaming about how unfair it is to their team in particular, because there always are. But honestly, it’s really pretty good for most teams. Only one team plays back-to-back games twice, and one of those is a weekend with two home games. Going for weeks without playing is always a problem but it’s fairly even – ten of the fifteen teams go at least 21 days without a game, but nobody goes more than 22 days.
There is one part of the schedule I’m not crazy about, so we’ll lead with that.
The schedule is very division-heavy. Panther City and Las Vegas play only three games against teams out of their division; every other team plays only two. For example, the Rock play Vancouver in week 1 and Calgary in week 8, and nobody else from the West. No Colorado, no Las Vegas, no Panther City, no Saskatchewan, no San Diego. Similarly, Buffalo sees Colorado and San Diego and that’s it. The reigning champion Mammoth see the Swarm and Bandits but nobody else from the East.
I get that division matchups are important so you want to have more of those but does it have to be that many more? As much as I love to see the Bandits, Thunderbirds, and Wings come to town, I would like to have seen the Mammoth or Panther City or Las Vegas. No such luck. I’m sure there are Western-based fans who would like to see the Bandits or Rock or Swarm but no such luck there either.
It reminds me a bit of Major League Baseball, where there are two almost-entirely separate leagues and rarely the twain shall meet. I grew up watching baseball before interleague play was a thing and as a fan of an American League team, I knew the only way I’d ever seen the Mets or Cardinals or Dodgers visit the Blue Jays was if they made it to the World Series. Since that was unlikely (and getting tickets was even less likely if it did happen), there was a whole league of pro baseball players who I would probably never see live, unless I went to a game while travelling or that player got traded to the AL. Since great players like Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Tony Gwynn, and Greg Maddux never played in the AL, that sucked.
And this doesn’t just affect the fans. Hamilton-born Joey Cupido has only faced the Rock in Toronto three times in his 10-year career. Dillon Ward, also a southern Ontario boy, twice in 8 years. Neither of them get the chance this year either. Similarly, BC-born Jordan Hall has played in Vancouver only 5 times in his fourteen years in the NLL. Playing in front of friends and family has got to be a big thrill for these guys and many of them get the chance all the time, but it would be nice if it could happen more often for the rest.
We have a 2022 Championship series rematch on March 18
All teams have three or four bye weeks except the Wings who have five. However, there’s a “missing” week between weeks 3 and 4, which is Christmas. December 17 has five games but then there’s nothing until December 30. Teams that have a bye week in either week 3 or week 4 get an extra week off, so that by the time they play again, they’ve been off for three full weeks. This affects every team except Buffalo, Calgary, Halifax, and Panther City. Luckily nobody has byes in weeks 3 and 4, and other than this bit of weirdness, nobody has byes in back-to-back weeks.
- New York has byes in weeks 2 and 4, then they play 13 straight weekends, then have another bye.
- Saskatchewan has byes in weeks 3, 5, and 7, then play 14 straight weekends until the end of the season.
Most teams have only one weekend in the season where they play two games. Six don’t have any back-to-backs at all (Albany, Las Vegas, New York, Rochester, Saskatchewan, and Vancouver), and Philly is the only team with more than one. Most of them are reasonable travel-wise – nobody’s doing the crazy Denver-and-Saskatoon-on-consecutive-days thing. A couple are a more significant distance (Halifax/Hamilton and Georgia/Halifax) but in both cases, there’s an extra day in between games.
- Buffalo has a weekend with two away games – Philly and New York
- Calgary and Philly each play two home games in one weekend
- In week 13, the Wings play two games at home, and then in week 15, they play at home on Saturday and in Rochester on Sunday.
Home and away
On December 17, Colorado plays in Panther City. The Mammoth then go home and don’t play their next away game until Feb 4. Panther City hits the road and doesn’t return to Texas until Feb 11. Both Colorado’s 49 days between away games and Panther City’s 56 days between home games are league highs this year.
- New York plays their first four games at home and their last four on the road
- Las Vegas plays home games in weeks 3 and 5 (with a bye in between) and away games in weeks 19 and 20, and alternates home and away the entire rest of the season
Days of the week
This one’s interesting. Most teams prefer Saturday games but some teams are really adamant about it. For both Albany and Toronto, 16 of their 18 games are on Saturdays. In fact, every team has at least 11 of their 18 games on Saturdays except Halifax (6 Friday, 10 Saturday, 2 Sunday) and Calgary (10 Friday, 8 Saturday).
Mammoth, and Rush play all of their home games on Saturdays. (Update: I had this wrong; the Mammoth play all of their away games on Saturdays. Six of their nine home games are on Fridays.) The Riptide and FireWolves are close, with 8 on Saturdays and one on Sunday.
There is one Monday game this season: Toronto plays in Philly on Monday March 6.
Another thing the Wings (and only the Wings, if I recall correctly) have done in the past is early starts. Twice this season they have games beginning before noon: on March 4, the Wings play the Riptide at home at 11:30am. Two weeks later, the Wings host the Swarm in an 11:00am start.