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GMs propose 3-on-3 overtime for regular season

by Shawn Roarke

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL general managers recommended Tuesday that the League go to a 3-on-3 format for regular-season overtime, starting as early as next season.

The overtime format now is 4-on-4 play for five minutes. If no goal is scored, the game is decided by a shootout.

The general managers also recommended the addition of a limited video-replay challenge, which would be issued by a coach, for scoring plays involving the potential presence of goaltender interference, and to remove delay-of-game penalties assessed for a player shooting the puck from the defensive zone directly out of play.

Any potential changes to the rules need to be reviewed and approved by the NHL-NHLPA Competition Committee, comprised of representatives from the League, the NHL Players' Association, and the Board of Governors. The Competition Committee and the BOG each traditionally meet in June.

The managers want to see 3-on-3 overtime instituted in an attempt to decrease the number of overtime games that reach the shootout.

"The consensus in the room, overwhelmingly, is we're not getting rid of the shootout. It was, how do you reduce the number of games that go to the shootout, keep the shootout special?" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The format of the new-look overtime is undetermined with two being considered.

One option would have overtime start 3-on-3 and continue for five minutes, unless a goal is scored, before going to the shootout.

The other would mimic the model instituted by the American Hockey League this season, with 4-on-4 play for the first three minutes of a seven-minute overtime, followed by 3-on-3 play after the first whistle past the three-minute mark.

"We’re going to look at both variables and figure out which one, collectively with the Competition Committee, we think makes the most sense. And then, ultimately, it's subject to Board of Governor approval," Commissioner Bettman said.

Though the general managers remain divided on what format will be the best to adopt for the new-look overtime, they are united in their call for a change to the current system.

"I think in the American League it's gone great,” said Joe Sakic, executive vice president and GM of the Colorado Avalanche. "It's very exciting and I think it will add even more excitement to the game, so it's a good thing. We'll see where it goes, but I know the fans have great love of shootouts. But if you can make it even more exciting by adding a 3-on-3, everybody benefits."

Of the 922 games played in the AHL through Monday, 224 were extended to overtime. Of those 224 games, 171 were decided in overtime, a 76.3 percent rate; last season, 35.3 percent of the overtime games in the AHL were decided before the shootout. Of the 171 goals scored in overtime this season, 73 of them were scored during the time allotted for 3-on-3 play.

Also through Tuesday, the AHL had 18.6 percent of its games decided in overtime, up from 8.5 percent last season. It had 5.6 percent of its games decided in a shootout, down from 15.6 percent last season.

In the NHL this season, 257 games have reached overtime; 110 have been decided by 4-on-4 play, 147 in the shootout. Last season, 307 games extended past regulation with 128 decided in overtime and 179 in the shootout.

The general managers were hoping that minor tweaks instituted last season, including the dry scrape before the start of overtime and the adoption of the long-change rule, would add to the scoring in 4-on-4 play. As the numbers show, that has not happened, so other alternatives have been discussed informally among the GMs throughout the season.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland said another example of overtime was the model used in the Swedish Hockey League, the top professional league in Sweden. That league switched its five-minute overtime format from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 in December because not enough goals were being scored 4-on-4. Holland said the amount of games decided in overtime went from approximately 35 percent to approximately 75 percent after the change was made.

"I'm good with both," Holland said. "I think in both cases what we're trying to accomplish is, take where 40 percent of our games are decided in overtime and 60 percent in shootouts, ideally we'd like to switch those numbers. We still want shootouts; we think fans like shootouts. But we're trying to get more games decided playing hockey in overtime. I think whether you do five minutes of 3-on-3 or whether you do the AHL format, the statistics obviously tried in the Swedish league and tried in the American Hockey League show that it works."

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