In an effort to add some spice to the NHL, and hoping to bring all the fans back, there were a number of rule changes that were implimented after the lockout of 2004-2005. A few of the rules have changed the game for the better, starting with the elimination of the red line nullifying the two line pass that previously created offsides. And by the way it’s offsides, not offside! That rule change alone has made the game faster, more exciting, and has seen many breakaway’s created by a puck moving defenceman with a knack for making that long breakaway pass which has led to numersous scoring chances.
The one rule however that just causes my blood pressure to reach it’s boiling point is the shootout. Call me a traditionalist, call me old, or even old fashioned, but this rule has more than worn out it’s welcome in my mind, and makes a bit of a mockery of this glorious sport. And judging by my timeline on Twitter, there are a number of hockey people both media and fans who have similar feelings. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching games that sometimes ended in ties, that I feel such hatred for this rule, but be that as it may, I cannot wrap my brain around why this is a good thing. Yes, the league was making an attempt to give the game more appeal, and felt that by having a sort of skills competition at the end of a shortened overtime, fans would be on the edge of their seats. Previously it was felt that teams may have been coasting in overtime, hanging on to survive, and willing to sacrifice some offence in fear of giving up a game winning goal, and were willing to walk away with at least a point if the game ended in a tie. Of course there’s the old saying that a tie is like kissing your sister……but after watching the past few years of shootouts, I’d actually rather…..nevermind.
Naturally when your team wins the shootout your feelings are likely much different. Your happy, elated, but mostly I would bet relieved. Of course depending how your team ended up in that situation also has a direct reflection on your thoughts of the final outcome. Did you give up a late goal in regulation, or did you score in the final minutes to “tie” things up, forcing the game to overtime? I’m not going to get into any statistics regarding the shootout, as my thoughts are void of that research for this article, and really don’t care to dissect this rule that way. This is more of an emotional feeling that I likely share with many of you reading this, and even some who aren’t.
The NHL needs to come up with a better way to end games and credit points. In the “old days”, teams would go to a full 20 minute overtime period after being tied after regulation. As soon as one team scored,the game was over, and the extra point was awarded. Two points for the winner, and one for the loser. The rule was changed for a number of reasons, but mostly because it was felt that a winner needed to be decided, and that games ending in ties were disappointing.
Losing in a shootout to me is more frustrating than a game ending in a tie. Sure, like any other fan I enjoy seeing some (not all) of the slick and fance moves by some of the games most skillful players. The Chicago Blackhawks actually posses two of the best shootout players in the game today as this video shows. Jonathan Toews isn’t slashy, but he’s extremely accurate. Patrick Kane on the other hand is both flashy, and virtually automatic. Some might even call some of his moves “sick”. On the opposite side of this coin is the losing goaltender who may have played a superb game in regulation, but has no clue whatsover in the shootout, and ends up on the wrong side of the score. Hard to feel good about yourself when one shot decides the game, after you’ve played so well to that point.
At the most recent GM meetings there was discussion of making some subtle changes on how to decide overtime. What if anything actually comes out of it will be determined likely after this season. My suggestion is the following: If there is a tie after regulation, continue to keep things as is and play five minutes of 4 on 4 hockey. If the game is still tied after that, play 3 mintues of 3 on 3. Should no one score after the additional 3 minutes, then, game over. Thanks for the effort everyone and goodnight. But here’s the “kicker” that could make things more enticing. After regulation, each team is of course credited with one point. However, if a team wins in overtime, give that team an extra two points for the win. That would hopefully prevent teams from coasting, and or becoming ultra conservative as they play it safe until the shootout.
Here’s the rub: No other major sport uses a skills competition to decide games. Imagine if baseball used a home run hitting contest, or the NBA used free throws, or the NFL had a field goal kicking contest. Tell me you wouldn’t feel a little empty inside, especially if your team lost.
The game of hockey is a fantastic sport, and in this writers mind the best that there is. It’s a game that involves teamwork, skill and grit. It shouldn’t be left to individuals to determine the final outcome of a game with a ballet like performance.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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