Semyon Varlamov of the Washington Capitals makes a save in the shootout against Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders on Nov. 11. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Enough already! Get rid of the shootout!
Whatever the objectives may have been, this contrived method of determining which team is deserving of victory at the conclusion of a hockey game that has twice ended in a tie is a monumental failure.
The shootout isn’t hockey. It has no roots in the game. It has no history. It has failed to produce more regulation time wins. It has failed to motivate teams to score in the five-minute overtime rather than risk going to the shootout. It has done nothing more than extend a game that many believe is already too long.
And it really isn’t a contest of skill. If it were, how does one explain Saturday night’s contest between the Maple Leafs and Capitals? In that shootout, Toronto, one of the league’s least skilled collections, managed to score on their first two shots. Washington, with the most prolific offense in the league and the game’s No. 1 sniper (Alex Ovechkin) got nothing.
OK, I understand the best team doesn’t always win, but the fact is there is little correlation between offensive talent and shootout success. Gus Katsaros provides more statistical data than one can absorb in his analysis on Fadoo.ca, so I will leave the numbers to him. What we know as fans is that this is a terrible way to decide a game.
For anyone over the age of 30, you grew up enjoying a game that lasted 60 minutes during the regular season. Not 65 and certainly not longer than that. While a tie might not have been as satisfying as a win, I can’t recall anyone announcing they would not watch another game after witnessing a tie.
The only time we got to see overtime was during the playoffs and when that happened there was a tension that was palpable. Every rush, every shot could end the game and thus became a potentially pivotal moment. It’s still that way during the playoffs, but truthfully, it doesn’t transcend to the regular season.
Overtime on a Wednesday night in November doesn’t make my pulse race. And the only time we got to see a penalty shot was, well, when the referee awarded one for a specific infraction during the game.
Tell me honestly, do you still get as excited when a penalty shot is awarded as you did before the shootout? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Like everything else in this world, it is the rarity of the event that evokes an emotional reaction. Watch anything repeatedly and the thrill dissipates quickly.
I devoted a chapter in my book – 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments – to a revised point system designed to recognize the difference between winning in regulation time, overtime or a shootout. But my agenda has changed.
Keep overtime, if you must, but please do not subject me to another mind-numbing shootout. If the NHL insists on having a winner every night, the only answer is to do what they do in baseball and basketball and in hockey during the playoffs…play ‘til someone scores.
At least that would be hockey and not some circus sideshow.
Bob McCown, author of the book McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments, hosts PrimeTime Sports, the most listened to sports talk radio show in Canada. Reaching more than a million listeners each week McCown is known for his argumentative nature and acerbic demeanor. You can read more of McCown's work at fadoo.ca.