College Hockey Should Adopt 3-on-3 OT

The NHL will have a new overtime format when the 2015-16 season begins. Earlier this week, the NHL GMs and the NHLPA recommended that NHL adopt a five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime period if the game is tied after regulation. The changes were approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors on Wednesday.

For the hockey fans that hate the shootout, it’s not going anywhere,  not yet.  However, the shootout is going to be less prevalent. If the game is still tied after the five-minute 3-on-3 overtime, the two teams will go to a shootout.

Ray Eme
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Personally, I don’t mind the shootout to break ties in regular season games. However, there are a lot people that don’t like it.

Currently, the AHL uses a three-on-three format to break ties during the regular season.

If the game is tied after regulation, they play a four-on-four hockey for four minutes. If the game is still tied after four minutes, the two teams  play three-on-three hockey for an additional three minutes. If the game is still tied after seven minutes of overtime, the two teams then  go to a shootout.

In the AHL, 75 percent of the games that were tied after regulation were settled in overtime. This makes the hockey purists happy because the shootout happens less frequently.

According to Scott Burnside of ESPN, the NHL players were reluctant to make the overtime period any longer than five minutes. Over the course of an 82 game season, the extra minutes could cause some unnecessary wear and tear on the players.

The hockey purists will say this is a gimmick, but the three-on-three overtime should give the fans an exciting alternative to the 4-on-4 overtime. With fewer players on the ice, there will be a lot more open space. Open ice means more offensive chances. Finally, the teams won’t be able to slow the game down as much as 5-on-5 hockey.

Zac Larraza [photo: University of Denver Athletics]
Zac Larraza [photo: University of Denver Athletics]

NCHC considering 3-on-3 OT Format

According to Matt Wellens of the Duluth News Tribune, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is considering using  the 3-on-3 overtime format to break ties during NCHC conference play. This could happen as soon as the 2016-17 season.

The earliest the NCHC officially could begin using 3-on-3 OT periods is 2016-17 because right now NCAA rules do not permit a second overtime period, nor for teams to play 3-on-3. The NCAA does permit the use of teams playing 4-on-4 in overtime, but only in place of 5-on-5. (Matt Wellens, Duluth News Tribune)

Since college hockey is a major development route to the NHL, it would make perfect sense for the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee to approve the 3-on-3 overtime format. At a minimum, the NCAA should let the six leagues decide if they want to use the 3-on-3 overtime.

College hockey’s overtime format needs tweaking

It will be interesting to see what route NCHC takes. With any rule change, there will be push back. The current format for settling ties in the NCHC needs some tweaking. I have talked to quite a few fans that hate the shootout and would rather have the game end in a tie. Selling a 3-on-3 overtime to them might be a stretch.

I also believe that the overtime points system should be changed. Instead of being punished for a loss in overtime, give the overtime loser a single point and the winner two points. This has been a topic of discussion with some in the media.

In college hockey, if a team loses in overtime, the winner takes all. The loser goes home empty handed, with no points. In the NHL, the team that loses in the overtime still receives a point in the standings. I would like to see the NCHC change that rule.