Saturday, 15 February 2014

Shootouts: A Necessary Evil

Likely you saw or heard about Saturday's instant classic between Russia and America. The Americans won 3-2 in a shootout over the Olympic hosting nation. The game featured an eight round shootout in which the US's T.J. Oshie went in six of those eight rounds, scoring the winner. The game brought about some mixed reaction from people I follow on Twitter. The main thoughts were that it was a great game, but some of those tweets were accompanied with a conditional statement. The condition was that's not the right way to end a game. Some even wondered what was so wrong with ending the game in a 2-2 tie. Here's what's wrong with that...
With the money fans invest in tickets these days, it is my opinion that you can not send them home without a definitive result. Unfortunately right now, a shootout is the only feasible way to achieve that definitive result. The shootout is a necessary evil.

Why no love for the shootout? It's my opinion that a shootout removes one of hockey's great attributes, teamwork. The shootout turns a game into a skills competition for a few select players. These players then complete individual tasks in hopes of winning the game for their team, as opposed to winning the game as a team. The team may play a very good game. Their opponent may match them blow for blow. After regulation and overtime the team's work no longer matters and now it doesn't matter which team can prevail. Now the individual skill of a player is what matters.

Perhaps there are other ways to break a tie then? In the playoffs the OT's just keep coming until someone scores. During the regular season you can't do that. This is due to time constraints that the TV networks push for. They would like to get their evening news aired and aired on time. With the shootout the NHL is able to guarantee that their games will be over within three hours from the start of the broadcast. TV networks can't cancel other shows just because the Blues and Devils are in double overtime of game 28 during the season.

Ken Holland, GM of the Red Wings, would like to see an OT period of 4-on-4 followed by on OT period of 3-on-3. The idea being that you would increase the chances of a game being ended in OT rather than in a shootout. To me this is the most feasible solution. However, you would need to set it up in a which would guarantee to the TV networks that their hockey broadcast would be over in three hours. A game that goes to a shootout typically uses 170 of 180 minutes of a broadcast. That leaves 10 minutes for a 3-on-3 OT, plus three stars, and a closeout segment by the broadcasters. The networks would probably want to sell advertising in this space. If the game ended in regulation the time after would be used for ads. Now you're using it for OT, which means no ads.

The shootout can be exciting, but I would prefer to see the game end in OT or regulation. I'd like to see a team win as a team. Unfortunately due to ticket prices, TV networks' demands, and advertising spots it appears as if the shootout is the only way to break a tie...right now. Like it or not.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the idea of having one team member going multiple times. Watching Oshie beat Bobrovsky four times amazed me, and it would also open a spot for shootout specialists on all NHL rosters. Plus, who wouldn't want to see Pavel Datsyuk beat a goalie three times in a row to win the game?