I hate ties. You hate ties.
How could anyone like a tie?
You spend sixty minutes watching a hockey game, your heart soaring as your team succeeds and breaking as the opponent bounces right back. Before you know it, the score is even, and you head to overtime. Excitement floods the arena, and you spend five minutes on the edge of your seat, waiting for that moment: a goal, a decision.
But nothing happens. The five minutes quickly fly by, and at the end of the night, the scoreboard boasts two identical numbers for each side.
Fans file out of the arena just feeling awkward. Are you happy? Are you sad? You can’t really be either.
This happens all the time in college hockey. There’s a tie practically every weekend somewhere in the league.
We’ve got to get rid of these ties, and there’s just one plausible way to do it: shootouts.
Settle down, all you hockey traditionalists who are leaping for my throat. Consider it for a moment.
Shootouts are exciting. Fans gobble them up. And if there’s any fan base in the country that needs to be rewarded right now, it’s hockey fans. They support this struggling sport day in and day out while the rest of the sporting world laughs in their faces.
Players and coaches may not like shootouts. Yes, it does settle a game’s outcome on an individual basis. I know hockey is, probably more than any other major sport in America, all about the team. I love that about hockey. But the team had 65 minutes to work this out together.
Besides, I don’t hear many people complaining when their team’s game-winning goal comes from a penalty shot.
I’m not proposing we have a shootout decide who goes to the Frozen Four. That’s not fair. Shootouts should only be allowed in the regular season, not when postseason hopes are on the line.
We’re lucky enough to have a perfect shootout model to follow. The NHL has been using shootouts ever since the lockout ended in 2005.
I’d like to see that same format in the NCAA. Five minutes of four-on-four overtime (changed from the current five-on-five overtime), followed by a shootout. Three skaters shoot for each team first, and if that doesn’t present an outcome, go to a sudden-death shootout using the entire roster (except goalies) before repeating shooters.
Imagine Yost Ice Arena during a shootout. That old barn would be rocking.
Imagine watching guys like T.J. Hensick, Andrew Cogliano and Jack Johnson head down the ice one by one for Michigan.
Imagine erupting in “The Victors” after every Michigan goal (or save, for that matter).
If that doesn’t excite you, check your pulse.
We need forward thinking with hockey. The game can’t stay frozen like the surface it’s played on. So get with the times and get with the shootout.
Yes, shootouts are exciting.
Yes, shootouts guarantee games don’t end in a tie.
Yes, the National Hockey League uses shootouts.
But, no, college hockey shouldn’t move to a shootout system.
There are many reasons for my opinion, but the most important one is this: shootouts aren’t hockey.
Hockey is a team sport; each player is part of a unit. Each skater has a responsibility to his team at both ends of the ice – offense and defense.
A shootout is an individual competition, pitting a shooter against a goalie. This inherently takes away from hockey’s essence. Where’s the defense? Half the game just disappears.
If shootouts are so great, why isn’t the entire game just a shootout?
I’ll tell you why: because a shootout is not a sport, it’s an offensive skills showcase.
Letting a shootout decide a hockey game is like having a home-run derby decide a baseball game, or letting a game of one-on-one to five with each team’s best player determine the winner of a basketball game.
Yes, these scenarios would be extremely entertaining, but they are in no way related to the games they decide. Why? Because team sports shouldn’t be decided by individual games.
But ties are so boring, you say. I couldn’t agree more, so I came up with a few possible tweaks to the current overtime system that would result in fewer ties.
First, make the overtime four-on-four. This would create more space on the ice, allow talented players to be creative and increase scoring chances. The NHL adopted this rule in 1999 with great success.
Just imagine T.J. Hensick, Kevin Porter, Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick on the ice against four-man units from teams like Minnesota, New Hampshire and Boston University. Now that would be entertaining.
Not good enough? Still too many ties? Let’s try this: add five minutes. With a 10-minute overtime, teams would have a better opportunity to establish momentum. If there had been five more minutes against Michigan State last Saturday, there’s no doubt in my mind the game would have ended in the Wolverines’ favor.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the current NHL system is the problem the NCAA must avoid when and if it changes its overtime format: By the time you get to the shootout, you’re already guaranteed one point.
This waters down the game by rewarding teams for playing to tie. The great thing about sports is that you’re supposed to play to win. Well, not in the NHL, apparently.
Shootouts are entertainment. Hockey is a sport.
If you want to be entertained, go to the circus and leave hockey alone.