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Is the Shootout bad for hockey?

Posted On October 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm by / No Comments

Is the Shootout bad for hockey?

The winter of 2004-05 was a dark time for National Hockey League fans; forced into watching old games on ESPN Classic as a result of a season-long lockout. As great as it was reliving the glory days of the Detroit/Colorado rivalry, it just wasn’t the same.

When the skies cleared and the lockout ended, one of the most talked about (and most controversial) things to come out of the countless league meetings was the introduction of the shootout.

From a business perspective, the end goal for NHL executives is bringing in the almighty cash dollar. Now consider the fact that the average sports fan (in terms of the majority, not necessarily interest level) wants a clear winner and wants to see back and forth, high scoring games. Considering these two facts and these two facts alone, adding the shootout makes sense – we give them a winner & rules to increase scoring —> more (average) fans buy the product —> make more money.

Unfortunately for the league, nine years later there is little to indicate the shootout itself has had actual impact on attendance, viewership, and merchandise sales.

The fans that took issue with the rule change then, largely have the same issue with it today. While individual statistics are fun to look at and analyze, hockey fans on the whole are about the team and what the shootout does is determine sixty minutes of team play with a skills competition.

Sure it can be exciting (who doesn’t love to see Pavel Datsyuk toy with goalies?). But is it a fair way to decide a game? Well, no.

But as NHL execs seem to be of the “there needs to be a winner” mindset,” the shootout is really the best option – if for only one reason. Health. The most exciting time of the year for hockey fans is NHL Playoff time. Why? Simple. The level of play is unmatched and for the overwhelming sense of both excitement and heartbreak that comes with marathon games (we’re talking five periods of nail biting, adrenaline rushing, playoff hockey). Both of these things are directly impacted by player health.

Throughout the course of an 82 game season, players endure 4,920 minutes of crashing/being checked into boards and other players – along with the general wear and tear of playing a sport – and that’s without any overtime play. There were 307 overtime games played during the 2013-14 season (1,535 minutes), that’s an average of almost an entire extra game for each team. That may not seem like much, but it’s an additional almost 60 minutes of injury opportunity – which is the last thing players need.

Unless the league decides to revisit and embrace the tie, or even skip the 4-on-4 OT format and jump right to 3-on-3, the shootout is likely here to stay.

So back to the question at hand, is the shootout bad for hockey? That’s for you to decide.

It’s important to note, during this past off-season the same NHL decision makers that wanted to bring in more fans through the skill-based shootout, ruled that “Spin-O-Rama” moves – the moves that make shootouts exciting – will not be permitted in either the shootout or penalty shot opportunities. Sorry, NHL, but if you’re going to determine games with a skills competition you need to let skills be displayed.

The NHL style shootout was introduced at Total Roller Hockey around 2011, and determines games quite frequently (once or twice a night). While many Total Roller participants aren’t too keen on the shootout in NHL games – much like other fans – they love the opportunity to be the hero for their team.

The video below is from an adult game on October 6th.

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