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Hawk Talk: Shot Out

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

Gary Bettman gave it a shot. No one could deny the NHL needed a boost in the arm after the lockout, but some things simply have not been better for the game.

Put the shootout at the top of the list.

For me -- and I think for many others -- it simply has not created the excitement that was wanted. I don't find myself hoping the overtime period ends in a tie so we can have this supposed dramatic ending to the game. In fact, I'm usually rooting for an end in OT so we don't have to endure a gimmicky finish to what was more than likely a pretty good game.

It simply isn't hockey, and it's not exciting enough to "change" the way we finish a tie game.

Now this isn't one of those "I told you so" columns. I didn't have a strong opinion either way when they announced this change after the lockout ended. I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt since I know how unsatisfying a tie game is.

But if a tie game is like kissing your sister, then losing in a shootout is like being rejected by her! I think/hope you get my point. When the Hawks lose by shootout it sure feels a lot different than a loss in regulation or overtime. Besides perhaps the unsuccessful shooters in the shootout, I can't see hanging your head after that sort of loss the same way you might with an overtime loser.

It's not real hockey and its not like losing in real hockey, so why be so down about it?

As I try with any complaint, it's helpful to have a solution. Bettman and his people can thank me later. It's pretty simple and, with the way the league is now, it's a better solution than it would have been, say, five years ago.

Play four-on-four hockey for ten minutes instead of five and then call it a tie. I believe there are only two issues that critics of this idea would have a problem with. First would be timing. Does this extend the game too long? Absolutely not.

First of all, the league, in a great move, has sped up the games compared to several years ago. Sunday's Hawks-Rangers game went two hours and 16 minutes. 2:16!! That's incredible, and it was a bit faster than most.

Extending an overtime period that has no commercial breaks by five minutes won't be a big deal. (Plus, with cleaning the shooting lanes and then going through a shootout that has lasted upwards of 15 skaters, it's probably quicker to keep playing overtime.)

Others will say it still won't address the tie issue. We'll have as many as ever and we'll be back to kissing our sister. Well, of course that's not true. Five more minutes means that many more goals and that many fewer ties!

But it's even more true in the new NHL because as that four-on-four overtime period continues, there's a greater chance than in the past of a penalty being called and the most desired of power plays -- four-on-three -- ending games.

Add the fact that during overtime four-on-four benches are shortened and players will be getting pretty fatigued, those penalties will definitely be coming. Some may say this is even sort of a gimmicky way to end a game: Relying on fatigue and bad play. I'd suggest that the most disciplined, fundamentally sound, and physically fit teams will end up on top. That doesn't sound gimmicky to me.

So there it is. Keep the excitement, diminish the ties, and most important -- keep hockey, hockey.

As I stated at the top, it was a good try, but it has failed. Of course, if the Hawks were 7-2 in shootouts instead of 2-7 I might feel a bit different!

Next week I'll tackle the schedule. Nah, that's too easy.

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