3-on-3 OT ‘lesser of two evils’ versus shootout

Roger Millions reports from Las Vegas where general managers from the NHL comment on going to 3-on-3 overtimes next season.

LAS VEGAS — We’ve always suspected that the NHL’s staunchest hockey men weren’t fans of the shootout. Now we know for sure.

In recommending the adoption of a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period next season the general managers weren’t taking their first choice. But the group was willing to compromise if it meant seeing fewer games decided by a skills competition.

“The GMs are basically not in favour of the shootout,” Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray said Tuesday. “So, if this lessens the number of shootouts then it’s OK.”

“We want a higher percentage of the games determined in overtime,” added Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland. “We think 3-on-3’s going to do it.”

What the managers essentially did is take the recommendation of the players on the issue. They would have preferred starting overtime with 4-on-4 before going to 3-on-3 midway through — just as the American Hockey League did last season — but wanted to ensure they had the support of the competition committee.

Now the league’s board of governors will vote Wednesday to bring it into reality for the 2015-16 season.

They are also being asked to vote on a coach’s challenge, which will see those men able to contest offside and goaltender interference plays on goals subject to video review, and a tweak to the face off rule.

But the most dramatic alteration will be the new overtime format. A majority of AHL coaches were in favour of 3-on-3 after seeing it in action, and league president Dave Andrews addressed the NHL GMs during Tuesday’s meeting at the Bellagio Hotel.

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“The idea is to create excitement,” said Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving. “The purpose of it is to see if there’s ways that we can end more games. The shootout’s great for the fans and it’s entertaining, but I think the feeling even going back to the March meeting was if there’s a way to end more games in regulation in terms of overtime vs. going
directly to the shootout, I think it’ll be exciting.”

The shootout was introduced coming out of the 2004-05 lockout and remains a sore point with hockey traditionalists. Basically, the managers don’t want to see teams rewarded for being good at it.

Even though 3-on-3 hockey is gimmicky — you virtually never see that situation happen naturally in a game — it is viewed as the lesser of two evils.

“I think there’s too many shootouts and the 3-on-3s — as much as the fans like the shootouts — they’re really going to like the 3-on-3,” said Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall. “I saw a lot of it at the American League level. It’s exciting, it’s free flowing, it’s chance for chance.

“It’s tough on a goalie but it’s exciting.”

At the end of the day that still matters too.

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