Written by Habsterix, AllHabs.net

PENTICTON, BC. — As years go by and as the novelty wears off, more and more people seem to grow frustrated of seeing crucial hockey games and playoffs positioning being decided by what was originally introduced a long time ago as a skills competition. It seems like more and more games are being decided that way, a true shame to the sport.

The numbers certainly support the general feeling. In 2007-08, 156 or 272 overtime games were decided by the shootout. In comparison, 184 or 301 games finished the same way in 2009-10. It looks like more teams are playing to get to the shootout rather than trying to win games in regulation or OT.

“You’re looking at a skills competition that gets Philadelphia into the playoffs,” said Mike Gillis, GM of the Vancouver Canucks, referring to their shootout win over the Rangers in the last game of the regular season.

“I think a lot of the rules changes coming out of the lockout were great, but this was a wrinkle, or a wart, that we may have to look at”, said Brian Burke. “I think when we put the shootout in, we never envisioned the unreasonable, disproportionate percentage of games that would be decided in a shootout.”

At the General Managers’ meeting last spring, Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s suggested abolishing the shootout by adding an additional overtime period at 3-on-3 and it was rather well received by his peers. Unfortunately, the changes have yet to be implemented and one has to wonder what is holding things up.

The 3-on-3 overtime format is not a new concept as the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) has been using it instead of the shootout for several years, and the experience is proving to work for the league and fans alike! When a game is tied after regulation, the teams play the first overtime for five minutes at 4-on-4, just as we know it in the NHL. If, at the end of the first overtime, the game is still tied, they then proceed with five minutes at 3-on-3.

Before flying off the handle here, hear me out. For one, it’s still a team game instead of a one-on-one skills competition. Secondly, I personally wasn’t a fan of the idea until I got to experience it, being able to watch the BCHL first hand for years now. Two of the most entertaining games of the year last year that I was given to watch, all levels included, were tie games.

I’ve done some research and here are some very interesting stats to back up the idea:

  • In the past 7 seasons, the BCHL has seen 3,510 regular season’s games
  • Of those games, 544 were decided in OT, either at 4-on-4 or at 3-on-3
  • Only 74 games in seven seasons ended in a tie, about two per cent of all games played

What does that mean? If we use that two per cent and put it on a NHL 82 games schedule, it represents less than one game per season per team ending in a tie. Considering that this percentage is calculated at the junior level, just imagine NHL caliber players playing the second overtime at 3-on-3, where every rush is a two-on-one! It could very well be even less than that. You can be watching the most boring game, the last ten minutes of overtime will give fans entertainment for their money, it’s guaranteed! Now if the NHL can’t live with that, I don’t know what’s wrong with them.

So can we please get our game back instead of trying to lure fair-weather fans? How long before the NHL realizes that aside from eliminating tie games, their gimmick did not achieve what they were hoping for? The NBA doesn’t decide games with free-throws. The NFL, the most successful pro sport in North America, doesn’t decide winners with a field goals contest or with having the quarterback throwing the football through hoops. MLB doesn’t end games with a home-run derby.

There’s a reason for that folks: it’s not part of the game, as those are all skills competitions. I don’t like soccer; I don’t watch it more because they have shootouts. Thinking that the NHL would draw more fans with the shootout is a pipe dream at best. Leave the skills competitions where they belong, at the All-Star game. I remember the days when it was exciting to see a penalty shot during a game… not anymore, the novelty has worn off!

I’ll leave the final words to Brian Burke: “I loathe the shootout. I hate it. I detest it. I despise it. I don’t know if I can be any clearer.”

I’d be curious to poll some former BCHL players like Duncan Keith, Chuck Kobasew, Brendan Morrison, Travis Zajac, Ryan Johansen or Kyle Turris to see what they would have to say about the idea.


En français: La fusillade dans la mire des DG

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J.D. is a Senior writer for All Habs as well as Associate-Editor for the French version Le Magazine All Habs, while one of three Administrators of the fan forum Les Fantômes du Forum. He has created the handle Habsterix as a fictional character for the sole purpose of the internet. It is based on the cartoon Asterix of Gaule and his magic potion is his passion for the Montreal Canadiens. How old is he? His close friends will tell you that he’s so old, his back goes out more than he does! He was born when Béliveau lifted the Cup and remembers the days when seeing the Habs winning was not a wish, it was an expectation. For him, writing is a hobby, not a profession. Having moved to beautiful British Columbia in 1992 from his home town of Sherbrooke, Quebec, he started writing mostly in French to keep up his grammar, until non-bilingual BC friends pushed him into starting his own English Blog. His wife will say that he can be stubborn, but she will be the first to recognise that he has great sense of humour. He is always happy to share with you readers his point of views on different topics, and while it is expected that people won’t always agree, respect of opinions and of others is his mission statement. || J.D. est Rédacteur-Adjoint sur Le Magazine All Habs et il est un Rédacteur Principal sur le site anglophone All Habs, tout en étant un des trois Administrateurs du forum de discussion Les Fantômes du Forum. Il a créé le pseudonyme Habstérix comme caractère fictif pour l’internet. Celui-ci est basé sur Astérix de Gaule et sa potion magique est sa passion pour les Canadiens de Montréal. Lorsqu’il est né, Jean Béliveau soulevait la Coupe Stanley et il se rappelle des jours où gagner n’était pas un espoir, mais une attente. Pour lui, écrire est un passe-temps, pas une profession. Ayant déménagé dans la superbe Colombie-Britannique en 1992 en provenance de sa ville natale de Sherbrooke, Québec, il a commencé à écrire en français pour garder sa grammaire, jusqu’à ce que ses amis anglophones ne réussissent à le convaincre d’avoir son blog en anglais. Son épouse vous dira qu’il est têtu, mais elle sera la première à reconnaître son grand sens de l’humour. Il est toujours fier de partager avec vous, lecteurs et lectrices, ses points de vue sur différents sujets, et quoi que les gens ne s’entendent pas toujours sur ceux-ci, le respect des opinions et des autres est son énoncé de mission.


  1. I also LOATHE shootouts. I vowed to NEVER watch one live when they were instituted and have always left my seat to to home after any overtime regular season game. I think 3 on 3 is the most exciting hockey I’ve ever seen and hope that it is supplemented with 3 on 2 power plays.

  2. In the BCHL, if there’s a penalty called in the 3 on 3 OT, it’s an automatic penalty shot. I would love to see NHL players at 3 on 3, much, much more than the Shootout.

    • Come on JHaul, you won’t let some sour milk from a long time ago spoil it for you? I hear that since then, you have learned to read and you don’t have to rely so much on images… :P

      • It’s just funny that there are literally millions of shootout photos available online and you, for some reason, decided to use a picture of Gionta scoring in game and pass it off as a shootout picture.

        PS – I’m glad you remember me. You kept trying to ban me, as I recall, but you couldn’t. Wha wha wha what!

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