New changes to the regular season overtime format show that the NHL, as well as the majority of their fans, would like to see a decrease in the number of shootouts that will take place this year. For various reasons, the shootout has lost its “wow” factor, and many people (myself included) have had enough of the silly skills competition. That begs the question, why is the shootout still here?
Why the Shootout Still Exists
There’s no doubting that the main reason shootouts still exist is because of the t-word that the United States hates: ties. As stated by fictional head coach Ted Lasso in NBC Sports’ hilarious bit: “If you tried to end a game with a tie in the United States, heck, that might be listed in revelations as the cause for the apocalypse.”
Exaggeration? Sure. But he has a pretty fair point. Not many people want to pay the price of an NHL ticket to see their favorite team, only to feel like there was no real outcome for either side.
The fact of the matter is that the NHL is a business, and their goal is to make money. The NHL keeps shootouts to draw in lesser-hockey fans. People who don’t know the sport are attracted by shootouts, because they seem entertaining on the surface.
However, more experienced hockey fans realize that the shootout is an awful way to end a hockey game.
Why the Shootout Needs to Go
Ending a hockey game in a shootout is like ending a baseball game with a home run derby. It’s ridiculous. A shootout measures only the 1-on-1 scoring ability of a player in a situation that would never occur in an actual game of hockey. Sure, breakaways occur naturally in the sport, however, when was the last time you saw someone weave into the zone on a breakaway, and take their sweet time going side to side as if they have all day? Never. In an actual hockey game, breakaways generally require the puck-carrier to sprint toward the opposing goal, and make one move to try to beat the goaltender.
You’d never see Patrick Kane’s famous move in a real hockey game, for example:
Nor would you be able to weave into the zone, like this:
If those moves were attempted in an actual hockey game, you’d get blown up by a defender. End of story.
Personally, I’d say that the novelty of the shootout has completely worn out. I just don’t get excited about shootouts, and I don’t think I’m alone. To me, overtime is far more exciting. Sudden death hockey brings out the real energy of the sport, and is much more entertaining than the shootout that often-times follows.
How to Fix the Issue
3-on-3 overtime is a step in the right direction for the NHL. By providing players with more room to use on the ice, you’re drastically increasing the chances that they’ll score without completely compromising the defensive aspect of hockey. However, a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime won’t finish off every game, so what can the NHL do?
The NHL will have to consider ties. They have ties in college hockey, and while it may not be the most exciting thing, it does work. I’d rather see a tie than a shootout, however, many people would disagree, so the NHL needs to explore other options.
Extending overtime is certainly one choice the NHL has. Joe Delessio of Sports on Earth summed it up very nicely:
“It’s okay to make a hockey game a little longer. Fans and media types often shudder at the idea of extending the game, but a typical regulation hockey game lasts about two and a half hours, which is pretty reasonable, at least compared to baseball and football games that routinely last longer than three hours. The NHL can afford to institute a system in which regular-season games could potentially last a bit longer, as long as players aren’t pushed to the point of exhaustion.” -Joe Delessio
How could the NHL extend the game? Should teams play a longer 3-on-3 overtime, or would you prefer to see a change in the overtime system (2-on-2 seems a bit extreme, however, there are other options).
Perhaps teams could alternate powerplays. If each team took two minutes to try to score as many goals as possible, the NHL could institute a way to finish games that includes both offense, and defense. It could work in the same way that a shootout does, with a round-by-round format, where each team gets a powerplay. If one team scores, and the other one doesn’t, then that’s the game. If they’re tied at the end of the round, send them to another round (maybe with a 5-on-3 powerplay for the second round).
This would be a way for the NHL to finish up games in an all-around hockey format, without forcing teams to play into triple-overtime, as we sometimes see in the playoffs.
How should the NHL fix the shootout issue? Would you like to see alternating powerplays, ties, or another format? Reach out to me on Twitter @CamHasbrouck and we can talk!
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!