Wavering on OT


Just a few months ago, there was some discussion about what was happening with playoff OT — namely, the fact that Gary Bettman and co. emphatically re-stated that nothing was going to change with overtime. Everyone agreed and everyone kept saying, “Well, this is one point I’m always going to be a traditionalist on.”

Except for now. From Lindy Ruff (thanks to Kukla for this):

“I think the overtime should go to four-on-four. I think it creates more ice; it creates more chances,” Ruff said yesterday. “(In overtime) teams get fatigued. The scoring chances go way down.” Ruff said the additional 37 minutes of hockey on Sunday produced five combined scoring chances from both teams. “I looked around and it looked like people had left. I don’t think people want to come here to see six periods of hockey and the last three periods (have) one or two scoring chances. I don’t think that’s what the game is about. Two or three periods of overtime, I don’t think it’s good for the game.”

And yesterday, it also came out that Brendan Shanahan and Martin Brodeur, two members of the league’s competition committee, were going to suggest going to 4-on-4 overtime after one period of traditional 5-on-5.

Apparently, the tide is turning on keeping overtime the way it is. I see the logic of going to 4-on-4 — I mean, you keep things in the hands of the teams while freeing up the ice for more plays and more scoring chances which means less nights of crazy game times. And it’s not like players are going all out during their sixth period of hockey; hell, some guys can barely skate at that time. As a West Coaster, I love East Coast insane overtime games because they finish up in the late evening and I can get to bed at a sane time. Going to Sharks home playoff games, there have been many times I specifically thought, “God, I hope this doesn’t go into triple overtime — I have to work tomorrow.” At the same time, though, I’ve never experienced the delirious exhiliration that comes with a home-team triple overtime win (or, thankfully, the sheer depths of hell that comes with a home-team triple overtime loss).

But still, watching those super-long overtimes sure hold a special place in my memory. Caps-Penguins with Petr Nedved scoring the late-late-late goal and sliding on his knees in victory (and if memory serves me correctly, that overtime also featured a penalty shot and a Mario Lemieux fight), that was some good stuff. Same with Pens-Flyers a few years later. Hell, for that game, I remember leaving to go take care of some stuff, then coming back and thinking, “Damn, this is STILL on?”

Going to 4-on-4 doesn’t mean that we’ll be eliminating those games. It just means that we’ll probably get a lot less of them, and maybe that’s a good thing. I mean, what made those 3/4/5 overtime games special was that they didn’t happen that often. Still, I’m not totally sold on it. I consider myself fairly progressive when it comes to the game, but 4-on-4 still has an element of gimickery to me, and I really don’t like that in the playoffs. I can’t see a 16-inning World Series game being decided because the shortstop was taken out. I’m glad that they’re not even considering the shootout in overtime, but you have to wonder about slippery slopes. Is this a case of Shanahan and Brodeur looking at player fatigue, entertainment value, and quality of play or is it driven by something else?

The one thing that I don’t want to see is for this decision to be made by pressure from TV networks. If NBC starts complaining that their 1.2 rated game is killing their programming, tough beans — that’s what you get with sports. However, if Shanahan, Brodeur, Ruff, et al are truly thinking about the game’s interests with this, well, maybe there’s something to it. I’m not sold on it, but I’m open to the idea knowing that the competition committee has been pretty smart about their decisions so far.


3 Responses to “Wavering on OT”

  1. 1 Anti-Bettman

    Fire Bettman, How can you even consider this a good idea. Bettmans wrecking our game looking for ratings we’re simply not going to get. If people in Atlanta or Nashville can’t play hockey as easily as they do in Ottawa or Edmonton your simply not going to have the fanbase you get in Ottawa or Edmonton. Stop changing our game Bettman.

  2. 2 Mike Chen

    I don’t think this has much to do with Bettman. If you looking at the people advocating this — Lindy Ruff, Brendan Shanahan, Martin Brodeur — then it’s not coming from Bettman, it’s coming from some pretty good hockey minds. And that’s the only reason why I may even be open to this idea.

  3. 3 OddyOh

    Nope, I gotta be against this idea…if NBC doesn’t want long games, too bad, it’s edge of your seat excitement, even if most times it’s a game of “who screws up first”. Like a few opinions I’ve read today, I think 4-on-4 is a slippery slope to the shootout, which we already see way too much of in the regular season. And anyways, if for no other reason, endless OT must stay because it’s the only way to watch hockey Commercial Free! I’ve always felt OT is a tip of the hat to the fans, almost a reward, for staying up late and staying tuned. And anyways, what difference does it make? I still don’t watch games I don’t care about, but I’ll for sure stay up if an overtime is exciting, or the game is high stakes, which makes it exciting! The quotes from the players are always about how it’s exciting for fans, and if the NHL doesn’t want to make it’s fans happy, then they have bigger issues than we think.

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