Jonathan Toews leads the NHL with two 3-on-3 overtime goals (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Fans who love the 3-on-3 overtime format, rejoice! According to a report, the NHL is considering changing the All-Star Game format to a mini-tournament of 3-on-3 games. The Skills Competition will remain on Saturday, but the traditional game would be replaced with the tournament.
From a fan perspective, it’d be hard to call 3-on-3 overtime anything but a massive success.
The new overtime rules make the game fast, thrilling, end-to-end action that can end at a moment’s notice. And even the contests that go to overtime without game-winning goals, like Thursday’s tilt between the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators, feature breakaways, odd-man rushes and spectacular saves.
And from a league perspective, it has helped reduce the number of shootouts. Through 193 regular season tilts, 38 games have gone to overtime with only 12 making it as far as the shootout.
For those reasons, fans have been clamoring to see more of the 3-on-3 action, and they may get their wish at the All-Star Game this season in Nashville. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, 3-on-3 hockey is being discussed not as a side-event for the all-star weekend, but as the main attraction. The traditional game could potentially be replaced by a “a series of 3-on-3 games in a mini-tournament format.” Where do we sign up?
If, or when, the change would actually be implemented or announced is to be determined, but Dreger is reporting that it could be “as early as next week.”
That might come much to the chagrin of some major stars who have spoken out against the 3-on-3 gameplay. For instance, both Ottawa Senators Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson and Winnipeg Jets all-star blueliner Dustin Byfuglien said they’re not fans of 3-on-3.
“It feels more like a bag skate for players like me,” Karlsson told the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. “It takes a lot out of you…It’s not really hockey. It's about who holds on to the puck the longest. Who cheats the most. Small stuff like that. It's kind of boring.”
Byfuglien echoed those sentiments in late October, telling the Winnipeg Free Press 3-on-3 was a “terrible part of hockey,” adding he would rather overtime remain 4-on-4 or 5-on-5. ‘Big Buff’ was critical of the overtime changes again Thursday night after a shootout loss to the Senators.
"It's terrible, it's not hockey," Byfuglien said post-game Thursday. "It's for the fans, not the hockey players.”
Unfortunately for Byfuglien and those like him who dislike 3-on-3, the All-Star Game is for the fans, which means the league is more than likely looking at ways to engage them. That could mean the 3-on-3 tournament that Dreger described is on its way to Nashville for the Jan. 31 All-Star Game.