Let’s be honest; the NHL’s 82-game regular season is merely an appetizer for the league’s main course – a grueling, four-round playoff tournament, where teams attempt to secure Lord Stanley’s Cup, generally regarded as the most difficult trophy in sports to attain. With that now on the table, let’s address the elephant in the room; we still don’t have a worthy conclusion to regular season games that are tied after 60 minutes.
Somewhere along the way, more than a decade ago, some jokester in the league office thought that hockey fans (read: American hockey fans) couldn’t handle games ending in a tie. Mind you, from November 1942, when overtime was abolished due to train schedules impacted by wartime restrictions, until the 1983-84 season, NHL hockey ended after three periods, regardless of the score.
Fear not, young puck lovers. These aren’t the words of some old curmudgeon wanting to keep the game pure or trying to return things to the way they were in some perceived golden age of hockey. No, it’s simply an acknowledgement that the current rules are designed to satisfy all parties. Centuries ago, some wise man somewhere, uttered something about you can’t please all the people all of the time.
So, can somebody somewhere – anywhere – produce a single study showing that adding the shootout has brought one additional fan to the sport? Just one? Yes, fans love it. We get it; they all stand in unison when the shootout begins in NHL arenas across North America. However, that still doesn’t mean one should so casually declare it is the best way to end a game.
More recently, as the anti-shootout crowd began to have a louder voice, along came the idea of 3-on-3 hockey. ‘Great!’ heralded legions of fans, who previously called the shootout nothing more than a gimmick. Naturally, this was akin to the pot and the kettle becoming dear friends.
Even some of the players have voiced their disdain, with Winnipeg Jets behemoth Dustin Byfuglien recently calling the NHL’s new 3-on-3 format, “A terrible part of hockey. It’s not hockey." Like seeing him on a breakaway, the concept may not be a thing of a beauty, but it is a means to an end.
Whatever the end, though, just pick one. That’s all we’re really after here.
We don’t need all of it. We don’t need overtime, 3-on-3, the shootout, a rock-paper-scissors contest, nor a coin flip. Just pick one. If a game is tied after 60 minutes of action, and you’re committed to the shootout, get right to it. If you really hate the shootout and prefer 3-on-3, given it’s more tangentially related to the actual rules of hockey, then just play it for five minutes and live with the results. If we’re tied, we’re tied. The NHL won’t lose one single fan. I promise.
BIO: John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - previously named Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports and the Best Sports Blog by LA Weekly. As a past member of the Professional Hockey Writer's Association, Hoven has voted on the top NHL Awards, including the Norris and Calder Trophies. He can also regularly be heard talking hockey on NHL Radio Network, as well as TSN Radio in Canada. Be sure to follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already, @MayorNHL.