A few days ago we published an article after that the Swiss League had released the full 2019-20 National League schedule. Immediately, we complained about the fact that once again – for several reasons – the schedule looked non-sense.

Having said that, it was right thanks to that article that we had the chance to get in touch with Paolo Angeloni, director of the Regio League… namely, the director of all the amateurs and youth leagues for the Swiss Hockey League.

We immediately leapt at the chance to ask him a permission for an interview in order to understand why the schedule is so odd. He immediately made himself available and we thank him so much for that.

Therefore, here is the interview we had with him.

INTERVIEW – PAOLO ANGELONI

A lot of people, including us, showed once again some concerns about the 2019-20 National League schedule. Could you explain us which are all the variants that are to be taken into consideration when you draw up the schedule?

There are many factors that are to be taken into consideration when you draw up the National League’s schedule. First of all, there are week-end games. You always have to prevent a team from playing both games at home or both games away. Some arenas aren’t available during part of the season because of renovation (this season, it’s gonna be the turn of Fribourg Gottéron, Lausanne and Davos) or because of other events like the Youth Olympic Games that for example are scheduled in Lausanne in the upcoming month of January. Moreover, there are also multi-purpose arenas like the Hallenstadion of Zürich that hosts many events during the year. You must take also the Swiss Cup, the Champions Hockey League, the Spengler Cup, the IIHF international breaks into consideration. Moreover, you can’t forget about the TV requirements… 25 games a season are shown live for free on the MySports One channel and you must guarantee that all the clubs are playing the same number of games that are available for free in television. In addition, each club has the chance to block some dates and, last but not least, in the same arenas you also have to plan the Jr. Elite games. Finally, several cities have both an ice hockey and a football team (see Lausanne, Genève, Bern, Lugano etc…) and for security reason Super League and National League games can’t be played in the same city the same day.

Well, we got it… it’s a painstaking work to meet the needs of all the parties involved. What is your opinion about the current situation? What do you think can be done to improve it?

It’s true… it’s a painstaking work to meet the needs of all the parties involved and I don’t think there is extensive room for improvement except from some small adjustments here and there.

We (Leading Sport) wrote many times in the past, that in our opinion games should be played all year long like during the playoffs. That is: on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. What do you think about that?

I talk to you as a hockey passionate and not as the Regio Liga director now… I’d like the games to be scheduled for every day of the week just like in the NHL. However, I realize that this is not possible over here: our reality is very different and I understand the clubs’ will to play most of their games during week-ends. The ticketing and the fans constitute one of the main incomes, after all. And fans are going in greater numbers to watch games during week-ends.

Currently, teams play 50 Regular Season games. They play four times against 8 teams and six times against the 3 teams of the same geographical area. Many people think that this way – considering the different level of the three geographical areas – it’s unfair. What is your opinion on this matter? And why have these three geographical areas been set instead of making teams play a full fifth round that would take the number of Regular Season’s games to 55?

I don’t think that this factor should be a cause for concern. The decision to implement the geographical areas was taken by the clubs when we decided to increase the number of games. We moved from 44 games to 50 games, that’s because 55 were too many considering the other competitions (Champions Hockey League, Swiss Cup, Spengler Cup and National Team).

Let’s talk about injuries. Modern ice hockey – which is more and more fast and intense – put the athletes’ health at risk more than in the past. If to that we add the fact that players are forced to play games within 24 hours or less, the risk is even higher. What do you think about that? The players are the main actors of this sport, after all. When they get injured, it’s a big loss for all.

It’s clear that the recovering time is very important for a professional athlete. It must also be said, however, that over the years several rules have changed. Moreover, there have been many renovations in the infrastructures (see the new flexible dasher boards). I mean, as a consequence, also the game changed. Most of the changes were made also in order to protect the players’ health. Also the players physical preparation is now better. It’s difficult for me to really say if to play two games within 24 hours is a factor of risk.

Last season the Regular Season started on September 21st. This year instead, the opener is scheduled earlier, just like in the past. Why?

Let’s say that last season was only an exception. In the past in fact, the Regular Season always started during the second week of September. Last season we decided to start later since the World Ice Hockey Championship were postponed by a week. This season, all things considered and in order to have some more time, we decided to schedule the Regular Season’s start for the second week of September. And let us not forget the pleasant “starter” represented by the Swiss Cup that will be played on September 10th and 11th.

Is there a question we didn’t ask that you wanted us to? In other words, do you think there is anything else important to add?

Since I’m the Regio League director, I was expecting at least a question about the leagues of my concern. Maybe next time 🙂

Yep, there will be a next time, Paolo. From next season in fact, we want to talk also about lower tiers of Swiss hockey. Even though our main target will still be the National League.

Thank you so much for your time 🙂

Well, what can we say? When we started the project “Leading Sport” we turned from fans into passionates. We’ve become neutral and changed mind about many things. We spare you with the full list…

Perhaps it’s time to revise our opinion about the schedule also. Or rather, we still think it’s bizarre to say the least… but considering everybody’s requirements, it’s likely that it’s almost impossible to do better than that.

At this point, we think that a way to improve things was already suggested by Paolo Angeloni in the interview. That is, to have a schedule like in the NHL where games are played basically every day. This, without ignoring the clubs’ needs to play most of their games on Friday and Saturday. Then again, there will always be the problem of the National League table that would be unreadable as always…

But we think that playing some game every day, would allow to be more flexible. Also towards the clubs who play in multi-purpose Arenas and can’t guarantee ice availability with continuity.

Our hope, at that point, would be that back-to-back games played within 24 hours or less will be abolished. Because we’re still convinced that it’s dangerous for the players’ health, even though – as Paolo Angeloni said – many changes have been made in order to protect them.

Anyway, we think now we have the full picture when it comes to the schedule. We can let bygones be bygones. We expressed our opinion and Paolo Angeloni of Swiss Hockey kindly provided us with the version of who is behind the scenes. The fact remains that on September 13th there will be the first puck drop of the 2019-20 season…

And we just can’t wait!

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