The Lightning are starting a four-game, seven-day road trip out West. That’s a strange thing for me to say, since I grew up on the West Coast. For me, it should be an "Eastern road trip".
Those hockey fans in the Eastern Conference have no idea how easy they have it. The entire conference is in one time zone. There’s no trying to figure out what time the game starts in, say, Colorado or St. Louis, because it’s all either going to be at 7 or 7:30 pm. If you guess later and are wrong, then you’ve only missed part of the first period. No big deal. That’s not always the case in the Western Conference.
I feel bad for those fans in Detroit and Columbus. Those teams are in Eastern Time, but they’re also a part of the Western Conference. Try having over half of teams you play starting at 9 pm or later.
Random facts: Nashville in the Western Conference and Atlanta in the Eastern Conference are only 250 miles (400 km) apart. That’s about a four-hour drive. I know, because I’ve done it. Columbus and Pittsburgh are even closer, being only 185 miles (296 km) apart. That’s a three-hour drive. Back in the day, when Toronto was part of the Western Conference, the difference between them and Buffalo is only 103 miles (165 km), or a two-hour drive (minus the wait at the border, of course).
Obviously, the line between East and West is really pretty arbitrary. I have my own ideas about conference realignment, but I’m not sure that I’ll share those. They’re very unorthodox.
It is soo much easier to watch games when in Pacific Time. Eastern Conference fans just have no idea, unless they’ve lived out on the West Coast. The Eastern Conference game of your choice starts around 4-4:30 pm, then the Western Conference game starts around 7-7:30 pm, and you’re done by 10:30 pm or so after watching two hockey games. It’s great. Sometimes you miss the first half of the Eastern Conference game, due to work or the commute, but it’s often the end of the game that really counts, anyways, so that’s alright.
But when an Eastern Conference teams goes out West, that’s when watching hockey becomes problematic. Games that start at 10:30 pm on a week day? No thanks. Sleep is usually more important - at least it is for me.
(As a side note, we here at Raw Charge of a number of non-North American fans that stop in from time to time. The time difference for games isn’t so bad between Tampa and New Zealand, since they’re 17 hours ahead and games are typically in the early afternoon for them. But it’s awful for those in Western Europe, because they’re only five or six hours ahead, so games start in the middle of the night there. Frankly, I don’t know how those European NHL fans watch games live and are able to function the next day. I know that I couldn’t do it. Talk about die-hard fans….)
This is part of what that so-called East Coast bias is about. Games starting too late out West for the casual fan on the East Coast to stay up and watch them, so no one pays much attention to teams that play out there. And the farther west the team is, the worse it gets. Having lived on both coasts, I can tell you for a fact that it's a very real phenomenon. National sports coverage really is skewed to the teams (of any sport) that reside in the Eastern Time Zone.
So while an Western road swing might occasionally inconvenience Lightning fans, just imagine living in Detroit and being a Red Wings fan, or being a Columbus Blue Jacket fan in Ohio, as their team regularly makes trips out to Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver. It could definitely be worse. Lightning fans have just one or maybe two weeks of this nonsense; Red Wings and Blue Jackets fans have it all season long.