I hate shoot-outs

Yes I hate shoot-outs, those contrived rituals to determine the outcome of a game.  While they are full of drama, I detest them, because they are an alternative way of resolving the outcome of a game that in someone’s opinion is taking too long, the cheap alternative to letting the game play to its natural conclusion.

Two teams are locked in a close contest, and you wonder who will win: so you suddenly stage a contest between goalie and solo players skating in on the goalie? But that’s not hockey.

Imagine a boxing match that’s so close that they decide it by asking them to play a hand of poker. Or a close game of soccer decided by flipping a coin.

Perhaps you’d say “but that’s now a part of the game”. But only recently.

The FIFA World Cup (soccer) is coming.  Please please please don’t let anything be decided by a shootout..!

And in the NHL? Yes they do the shootout thing in the regular season, but they allow the full spectacle of overtime to play itself out in the playoffs, making the post-season feel that much more special.

Oh my I love overtime in the playoffs.

Incidentally, the NHL have now been surpassed for the longest hockey game in history.

And in baseball when you have extra innings they don’t force an outcome but let the game play out: even in the regular season! That’s one reason I adore baseball, a sport with a great reverence for traditions.  In the later innings you may witness the madness of an outfielder pitching because there are no other players available. And that’s part of the game, and actually tremendously exciting, watching the struggle.

Of course when a Canadian team loses to an American team in a shoot-out for a gold medal, naturally there’s this assumption that I’m whining for partisan reasons. But when a Canadian team wins a shootout I STILL hate it.  I want to see the game won through hockey, not a shootout.

….I feel your pain, ladies.

There are alternatives that stay within the boundaries of the game, but help bring a result that is determined by the game of hockey, not this alternative game of “the shootout”.

The best one I’ve heard involves the removal of players.

Imagine…you play a period of overtime.  And if after 80 minutes (the game plus an overtime period) they are still tied, what if you remove a player from each side, and they play 4 on 4 (plus the goalie) for that next period? More space on the ice likely makes a goal easier to come by, and makes it harder to obstruct the offensive players.

Hm still no result after 100 minutes?

Take off another player, play 3 on 3 (plus the goalie). I think that’s where I’d leave it, and see.   But what if, at the end of the next period, you went to 2 on 2 plus goalie. And after another period, one on one plus goalie.  Is that crazy? If you remove the next player it’s a lot like a shootout: except it’s hockey, not a staged shootout.  Oh I just wish they would let them play to a conclusion.  Maybe stop removing people, once you get to 3 on 3. But wow imagine the space, the room for a good player to move the puck.

OH and it would work for FIFA too, instead of a shoot-out. Take a player off every 30 minutes.

The other factor in this –and I’m really talking about YOU, my dearly beloved NHL—is the officiating.  At playoff time the rules seem to change. Where hooking and interference is clearcut in February and March, once we get into the playoffs, things seem to revert to the Don Cherry school of “oh no, don’t let the referee decide it” hockey.  The problem with this is that, if you now have a kind of unwritten permission to clutch and grab and tackle people in front of the net. When it’s politically incorrect to call penalties, especially late in the game or overtime: then the referee is STILL deciding it, by allowing aggressive play without any sanctions.  Whoever is better at passive aggressive play –that is, breaking rules nonchalantly and without embarrassing the referee by being too obvious about it –has a big advantage.

So in other words, referees must call the game by the same rules for the entire game. This is one of the things I LOVE about the NFL, who seem to have no fear of calling penalties at any moment of the game. And this is what fairness really looks like, when holding is holding whether in the first minute of play or overtime.

And now the hockey season gets more serious with every game as the playoffs get closer.

How about those Leafs…!

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