There Must Have Been A Better Way For The AHL To Reschedule This Game

AHL, Utica Comets. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
AHL, Utica Comets. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in hockey, something new comes up. This time the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, might be playing host to one of the oddest hockey games of all time.

During Utica’s home opener against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins on October 17th, the power went out at Adirondack Bank Center near the end of the second period. The game was officially “postponed”.

Now, the rest of that game, all 22 minutes and 43 seconds of it, will be played on January 24th. The Comets have a game scheduled the next day against a different team. Buy a ticket to their “full game” on January 25th and enjoy basically a third of a hockey game the day before for free.

The team is also honoring all tickets from October 17th as well. The AHL Penguins are coming to town on what otherwise would have been a day off to play just over one period of hockey.

Obviously, this decision came from the AHL’s front office and not the teams themselves. Local reporter Ben Birnell points out this puts the players at risk of injury as they play four games from January 24-28. January 26th would be their only off day.

There must have been a better way for the AHL to reschedule the Comets game.

Power outages are rare, but nothing new in hockey. The most famous of all was game four of the 1988 Stanley Cup Final at Boston Garden between the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers.

The NHL officially “suspended” the game, made game five in Edmonton count as “game four” and continued with the playoffs.

If a deciding game was needed past the remaining game, then a new playoff game would be played at Boston Garden, more or less counting as a deciding game seven. The series did not get that far as Edmonton swept Boston in four games.

That game ended in the second period, just like the Utica game. The stakes were obviously much higher in the playoffs. For that reason, one can’t exactly compare that situation to Utica’s. Game “four” of that Stanley Cup Final carried a lot more weight.

A similar situation happened during a regular season game between the Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center in 2010. Once again, the power went out during the second period and play was officially suspended after the problem could not be fixed.

The game resumed two nights later. Even if the situation was remedied the same as the Utica Comets game, it was done in a much more timely.

Interestingly, that wasn’t the only power outage incident at Prudential Center. A 2021 preseason game between the Devils and the Islanders was also affected. Since it was an exhibition game anyways, the NHL just decided to cancel the game altogether.

Considering Utica is the Devils affiliate, it must be bad luck between power outages and their franchise.

The AHL could have followed MLB’s model for postponed games. For the most part, if an MLB game is suspended, they try to make up the remainder of that game the next time both teams meet.

Some days it’s only a few days, sometimes it’s a bit longer into the season. So basically they would play whatever was left over (usually never more than a few innings) before starting the next game. In that way, it was sort of a mini doubleheader.

The problem is, the Comets only play the Penguins twice a year: once at home and once on the road. There are no other Penguins at Utica game for the extra time to be made up. There is a Comets road game at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

In the interest of scheduling, maybe the AHL should have just had the game resumed then. Even if the Comets weren’t playing in their home arena, you could let them play home team (getting last line change, for example) for that 20-ish minutes to save both teams the travel.

Unfortunately for Utica, it’s hard to imagine this “22-minute game” getting a large turnout. When the Devils had to resume play against the Lightning in the previous example, only 3000 fans showed up.

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Maybe give the fans an extra reason to show up. Have $1 concessions, half-price souvenirs at the team store, free parking, or anything similar just to get a few people in their seats. The fans that do show up are sure to have a fun story to tell.