CHICAGO - A little planning and some thought go a long way. Someone ought to alert the NHL office, or at least pass it on to the people who cobble together the league's schedule.

In Hollywood, for instance, studios will release films to coincide with particular dates on the calendar. Certain weekends are obviously better than others. Blockbusters and movies with Oscar potential get prime slots in the summer and fall. Flicks that look like flops tend to hit the screen before the Academy Awards - when everyone is distracted and the weather is cold.

Politicians often implement a similar strategy. If they're about to announce a policy shift or bill they want trumpeted in newspapers, they'll often unveil their plans on a Monday - that way they can command the news cycle for a few days or even the whole week. On the flip, if something goes wrong and needs to be buried, they'll dump it to the press on a Friday or prior to a long holiday weekend. Fewer Americans pay attention when they're packing up the station wagon and heading to the beach.

Timing might indeed be everything, but whoever said that apparently forgot to tell the NHL pooh-bahs and commissioner Gary Bettman. Why, in the name of all that's good and goalie, would a sport desperate to get national attention begin its showcase event on Memorial Day weekend?

The ratings in Chicago and Philly will no doubt be robust. But given how long these two franchises have waited to hoist the Cup, the NHL could have held the games at 2 a.m. Pacific Time and still gotten both cities to tune in.

The issue here is the casual sports fan and the out-of-town hockey heads. In order to attract those who don't back the Blackhawks or Flyers, it would have been smarter to start the series before or after the holiday. Preferably before. This is, after all, a sport played on ice. There's something strange about crowning a champion in front of fans wearing shorts and sun block.

Either way, people like to go on vacation on Memorial Day weekend. It's hard to imagine a huge cross-section of Americans changing their plans or shutting down the grill early so they can find a TV and catch some hockey action. That's a shame, because the first game of the Finals was exactly the sort of clash that might interest fans who have traditionally ignored the sport. It was a tense, dramatic, high-scoring affair that wasn't decided until the very end.

There's a reason the NHL often ranks last among the four pro sports in terms of television ratings, so I'll help the league out: Move up training camp and start the season earlier. Better to begin playing when it's warm instead of end when it's hot. In the interim, if anyone needs me, I'll be relaxing out by Lake Michigan.

It is a sad time for Chicago. The flags here should be at half-staff or, at the least, the city should be swathed in black.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Common - Chicago's preeminent MC - recently broke up with girlfriend Serena Williams. Take a moment and let the sadness sink in.

Common made the right move. Every family has its issues, but when your potential sister-in-law is a Medusa-esque exhibitionist who can make people turn to stone by flashing her naked (?) backside, it's probably best to get out while you still can. Put another way, the situation was just like the lyrics from one of my favorite Common tracks: "a story called 'go.' "

The Chicago Blackhawks are owned by Rocky Wirtz. He's an interesting dude.

(For the unfamiliar, he looks a little like a cross between former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and The Thing of Fantastic Four fame.)

Recently, ol' Rocky encouraged Chicagoans to boycott all things orange. If Philly wants to respond, it might be tough. The Blackhawks predominant color is red, though the sweaters and logo also feature white and black and green and a host of other shades.

The better idea would be for Philadelphia City Council to pass an ordinance banning grown men - well, physically grown, not emotionally - from donning feather headdresses within the city limits. That particular subset of Blackhawks fans has to be especially offensive to Native Americans - in part because the headgear is grossly stereotypical, mainly because the people playing dress-up love to dance like fools and generally lack rhythm. They're like a bunch of politically incorrect Elaine Beneses.

Anyway, Wirtz is really pushing this anti-orange crusade and has reminded Blackhawks fans to avoid it in everything from ties to drinks.

"If you want to put orange juice in vodka, try opting for a Bloody Mary instead," Wirtz told the Sun-Times.

That's good advice for you kids out there.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.
Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly.