For the last six years, us hockey fans have put up with something utterly ridiculous, a mockery of the sport we all know and love: the shootout. After no scoring through a five-minute, four-on-four overtime period, this ridiculous spectacle is put on display, which includes effort from one of eightteen skaters and a goaltender during each attempt. This shootout then determines the game’s winner and loser, an outright pathetic way to award a team two points. Something must be done; a change must be made, as I am not sure how much more of the “Gary Bettman skills competition” (as a fan once wittingly commented behind me at the Prudential Center) I can take.
After the dreaded lockout of 2004-2005, the NHL (led by an effort from Brendan Shanahan) attempted to make the game more offensive, instituting ridiculous new rules such as the goalie trapezoid that would not enhance our sport, but would enhance the viewing experience of the average fairweather fan. The shootout was created because it is exciting; thrilling, in fact, to some, that a series of penalty shots c0uld determine so much. But the same reason that it was so exhilirating for many fans is the reason that the shootout is utterly ridiculous; nothing like this should be able to determine an outcome. It would be as if a basketball game ended with a round of H-O-R-S-E, a football game with a long throw competition, a tennis match with a fastest serve contest. One of the reasons hockey is so great is because of the physical and mental skill it takes to execute a series of moves/passes/dekes to be in a position to score; the shootout takes all of this away in awarding a team two points.
For me, the old, pre-lockout overtime format (five minutes of four-on-four, ending in a tie if no goal is scored) would be a much better alternative; however, I realize that in this day and age, no fan wants to watch a sporting event with any chance of an outcome with no victor or loser. Thus, a new plan is very much needed. There are many different ideas that have been tossed around by fans and analysts alike, all of which deserve their fair share of contemplation.
One potential solution towards ending the shootout could be continuous four-on-four, with 20-minute periods, until a goal is scored. While this is exciting; everyone loves sudden death hockey; an 82-game season is tiring enough. To add more periods onto some of these games (although plenty would see a fairly quick ending) could be tolling to a group of players. Another solution, which has seen some popularity in the last few years, sees a variation that has never been introduced to the game of hockey; a predetermined period of four-on-four hockey (most have agreed with the five minutes we currently have in overtime) followed by continuous (in most cases) three-on-three play, until a winner is found. While someone would be sure to light the lamp fairly quickly with this new twist, I still believe that three-on-three hockey is extremely different from five-on-five (or even four-on-four), and would like to avoid it when possible.
My solution to this is very specific, as a large number of similar solutions to the one above are possible. I would suggest a twelve-minute four-on-four period, followed by continuous three-on-three. In these twelve minutes, the large majority of hockey games would be sure to see an end, as someone would be able to score before the game became overwhelmingly long, while avoiding three-on-three play. However, if these twelve minutes passed, we would need a quick end to a game; this format, and others like it, would provide that.
Obviously, this is a largely debatable format; however, any idea of this type would be. When we get into a discussion regarding a specific nmber of minutes like this one, no number could possibly be in the majority. Regardless of what number could be agreed upon, it is extremely necessary that the shootout be eradicated from hockey; thus, I will take any of the previously discussed formats (and ones that weren’t discussed as well) over the overtime we have now. Be sure to voice your opinion on the extra session (even if you do like the “skills competition” deciding games) in the comments and/or on Twitter (you can find me @ZachandKovy917).