Reflecting on the new overtime changes in hockey

Four months ago, the NHL’s Board of Governors approved a couple of changes to the league’s rules.

The first change was the expansion of the league’s video replay rules to include a coach’s challenge. The other was a change in the overtime format.

Since the 2005 lockout, the overtime format has been a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime period followed by a continuous shootout. This season, both the NHL and the Western Hockey League have changed the five-minute 4-on-4 to a five-minute 3-0n-3 period.

After witnessing a 3-0n-3 overtime period for the first time at last Saturday’s Red Deer Rebels game against the Calgary Hitmen, I have to say that it is easily one of the best ideas the hockey world has seen in the last 10 years.

The fact that only six players (plus two goalies) are on the ice at once gives those players a lot more room in which to maneuver. They have more time to make a play and more space in which to do it, leading to a much quicker style of play.

The fact that teams have to choose between having two forwards and one defenseman or vice-versa, leads to more odd-man rushes, which, during a sudden-death overtime, can be the among the most exciting plays in the game.

I seriously don’t know if I’ve ever heard a WHL arena louder than the ENMAX Centrium was on Saturday night. It was an incredibly exciting five minutes that featured odd-man rushes going both ways and some beautiful saves on both sides.

So with all of this quick back-and-forth play, it begs the question – why do we still have shootouts at all?

Saturday’s game was awesome because of the overtime period. Unfortunately, though, the game wasn’t decided during that overtime period.

Although it looked like it would have been decided within the next two or three minutes, the action, which had been so pulse-poundingly exciting up until that point, ground to a halt as the teams retreated to their benches.

Then the teams started sending out player after player to take their penalty shots and I swear that the noise level died right down.

Now don’t get me wrong the shootout is a very exciting part of the modern game, I just think that it has been overshadowed by this new 3-on-3 showdown, which keeps the pace up while doing basically the same job.

So, that being said, I would like to see one of two things happen – either get rid of the shootout altogether and play 3-on-3 continuously until somebody scores or move to a 10-minute 3-on-3 frame before going to the shootout. This way, more games would be decided by a dramatic overtime goal as opposed to being decided in the shootout.

In my opinion, games are always more exciting when they are decided in overtime anyways. When they end thanks to a puck crossing the goal line rather than on a save, as so many shootouts are.

After all, how memorable would the 2010 men’s hockey gold medal game had been if it had been decided during a shootout instead of the way it did?

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

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