Why Having 3-on-3 Overtime in the NHL Doesn't Make Sense

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2012

Hockey purists look at the shootout as a poor way to decide games.
Hockey purists look at the shootout as a poor way to decide games.Harry How/Getty Images

Where do these people come up with these ideas?

Somewhere in the bowels of hockey's think tanks in Canada, someone came up with the idea of doing away with ties in regular-season games.

Prior to the implementation of regular-season overtime at the start of the 1983-84 season, the NHL decision-makers decided that far too many games were ending in ties and that the paying customer was not satisfied with seeing both teams (or neither) walk away from the arena with the satisfaction that they had not lost.

The five-minute overtime cut down on ties, but it did not eliminate them. In 2000-01, the NHL changed the overtime to four skaters per side, allowing for more maneuverability and playmaking.

That also helped reduce ties, but it did not eliminate them.

The NHL went to a shootout at the end of the five-minute overtime session in 2005-06. While purists decried the shootout as little more than gimmickry, it proved entertaining to the fans in the arena and those watching on television.

But the hue and cry of those who don't like the shootout has not died down. The shootout is no less decisive or entertaining than when it was introduced, but it is basically a skills competition. Those teams who have skaters who can make an array of moves and then put a backhander in the top corner of the net have a good chance to score.

Those teams who have goaltenders who excel at stopping penalty shots give their teams a better chance to win.

But a debate has been raised about adding another five-minute overtime period that would feature three skaters aside plus the goaltenders prior to letting the game go to a shootout.

That would end a lot more games competitively rather than in the shootout that is used so regularly to decide games.

In 2011-12, no team had fewer than eight shootouts while the Montreal Canadiens participated in a league-high 17 shootouts.

So, if your goal in life is to end shootouts, why not go to 3-on-3 competition?

If that doesn't break the tie, go to 2-on-2. Why stop there? Make it 1-on-1. After that, you can remove the goalies.

There's something wrong with changing the game so dramatically and doing it so often.

There was nothing wrong with games ending in ties and each team getting a point. The changes that have been made so far are fine. Four skaters apiece for five minutes and then the shootout. That scenario works.

But chopping the overtime to 3-on-3 is a circus sideshow.

It should not be done. Let the regular-season overtime format stand as it is.