Has the shootout lost its appeal, and more importantly, its usefulness?

This season the Western and Midwestern Junior C Hockey Leagues did something very progressive – they decided to discard the shootout. As well no points are awarded to teams that lose in overtime.

Under their new format teams play sudden death four-on-four for five minutes. If neither team scores to end the contest then the game continues with five minutes of sudden death three-on-three hockey.

If the game remains tied, it goes into the books as a tie with each club receiving one point. If one team ends the game in overtime, the loser gets nothing.

By contrast the American Hockey League is in the process of testing a similar, if somewhat different system.

They employ four minutes of sudden death four-on-four in overtime followed by, if necessary, three minutes of sudden death three-on-three. They still advance to the shootout phase and the losing team in either overtime or the shootout still gets a point.

Purists favour the Junior C format, as they can’t abide the fact that a losing team still garners a point.

It was no secret that the NHL originally preferred the Junior C method of 4-on-4, followed by 3-on-3 and the game ending in a tie if no one scored but reluctantly instituted the dreaded shootout to appease the fans following the lockout season. Now they seem to be stuck with it – or are they? With the AHL testing a different format, perhaps a change is possible in the future.

I have never liked the shootout. It is a team game and should not be decided by a skill competition. The Junior C method would be an incredibly satisfying way to see a game end, even if it ended in a tie. Three-on-three action for five minutes with both clubs most skilled players would be a treat to see, especially on the large ice surfaces that most teams play on. If the goaltenders can hold the fort, then the game deserves to go into the books as a tie and everyone goes home happy.

As far as a time frame is concerned, an extra five-minute overtime period would take less time than most shootouts, so the game would end faster.

Hall of Famer Ken Dryden once said about the shootout that it is just an arbitrary contest to decide who gets the extra point. It has no relation to the game that just immediately preceded it. Teams that win shouldn’t get too excited about it. Teams that lose shouldn’t get too down about it. They could cut a deck of cards and get the same result.

Our league instituted the shootout prior to the NHL.  Perhaps it is time we take a proactive approach and ban the shootout before the NHL.

Put the game back in the teams’ hands and not individual players.

David Honsberger

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