New NHL Overtime Changes: What are they?

nhl-referees-770x470New NHL Overtime Changes: What are they?

by: Alex Howell

February 7, 2016

The 2004-2005 season would have marked the 88th season for the National Hockey League (NHL), but labor strife lingered throughout league and the players association (NHLPA). This full season lockout set plenty of records due to the lack of action within the league. The aborted season forced a 1,230 game lost with a 310-day league shutdown. The NHL was the first professional sports league to ever forfeit an entire season. The main topic at hand that effected the infamous 2004–2005 lockout was: minimum salaries, operation of the salary arbitration process, and revenue sharing. Essentially, a season was lost due to monetary situations amongst the league and players.

Considering the fact that the league had a lot of “free time” during the lockout, they had plenty of time in which they were able to implement new rules and regulations. The addition of new rules and regulations was started because the league began to see a declination in fan popularity. The most notable rule that came about was the implementation of the shootout process. The whole objective of this process was to deem a victor and eliminate any ties for statistical purposes, because in year’s prior, if a game didn’t end in overtime, it would end in a stalemate. This idea lasted a few years before fans and league officials began to question the set up of post-regulation play.

In the 2012-2013 NHL regular season 97 regular season games ended in a shootout, while 65 ended in overtime. This season had 162 games that actually ended in regulation, which means that 59.9 percent of NHL games went to a shootout in the 2012-2013 season. The season that followed definitely experienced a jump in overtime games. In the 2013-2014 NHL regular season 178 regular season games ended in shootout form, with 129 games actually ending in overtime. This means that 307 regular season games went in to overtime or a shootout, meaning that 58 percent of regular season games went to a shootout situation. The NHL Board of Governor’s were hoping that the following season would have more games ending before a shootout was required. “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. Unfortunately, the results were barely worth noting. The 2014-2015 NHL season had 170 games end in a shootout, while 136 ended in a shootout. With that being said, 306 games furthered themselves past a regulation situation. This means that 56.8 percent of the games in the 2014-2015 season resulted in a shootout. These statistics prove the new alterations in the overtime scheme.

Given the fact that so many regular season games venture past regulation play, the National Hockey League decided to implement new overtime rules for the current season (2015-2016). They decided to follow a similar format as the American Hockey League due to the high levels of success that came about from the new rules last season. The American Hockey League (AHL) used a seven-minute overtime format that enabled the game to head to a 3-on-3 portion in the later part of overtime play. The first three minutes were played at 4-on-4, but if neither team notched a goal in that time frame, the teams switched to 3-on-3 at the first whistle following the three-minute mark.

The AHL had 75 percent of its games that were extended past regulation decided in overtime last season, which was a huge boost from 35.3 percent in 2013-2014, when the AHL used a five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime layout.

The league approved of the new format in June of 2015, with the ultimate idea that the overtime games would come to a quicker result, due to faster ice. During the 2015-2016 preseason, the new overtime achieved the designed effect. Of the 26 games tied after 60 minutes, 19 were decided in the new style of overtime, and 10 of which ended in the first two minutes of overtime. The new rules for overtime include: Teams play an additional overtime period of not more than five minutes with the team scoring first declared the winner and being awarded an additional point. The overtime period will be played with each team with three players (plus goaltender) for the full five-minute period. Man advantages during overtime will be adjusted to reflect the situation in the game, but at no time will a team have fewer than three skaters on the ice during the overtime period. For example, if a team enters the overtime period on a power play, manpower would be adjusted from 5 on 4 at the end of regulation to 4 on 3 at the start of overtime. If a minor penalty is assessed during overtime, the teams will play 4 on 3. If a second minor penalty is assessed to the same team during overtime, the teams will play 5 on 3. If the game remains tied at the end of the five-minute overtime period, the teams will proceed to a three-round shootout. After each team has taken three shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a “sudden death” format. Clubs who pull their goaltender for an extra attacker during the overtime period (other than on a delayed penalty) will be subject to the potential forfeiture of their one point earned for the tie at the end of regulation in the event the opposing team scores into the empty net. At the end of regulation, the entire ice surface will be shoveled and the goalies will change ends. There will be no further ice surface maintenance during the balance of overtime period. Following the overtime period and before the shootout, the ice surface will be shoveled again, and the goalies will change ends. The main two changes are the amount of players on the ice during over time and the repercussions of pulling your goalie and getting scored on for an empty netter. Ryan McDonagh for the New York Rangers stated, “I think line changes come into the thought process even more.” “Getting caught out there, and getting tired, and them getting a couple guys on and are obviously fresher than you. ”Because the long change makes it tougher to get off the ice, he added, “You’ve got to be real smart and not risk trying to take a chance and get caught out there too long.” Another offensive-minded defenseman, Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, had a decidedly different viewpoint. He thought 4-on-4 overtime was already very exciting, but adding even more room on the ice should create some fireworks. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of skill, it’s going to be pretty fast,” Burns said. “It’s going to be small, skilled plays at the net. They probably want to do it to get rid of as many shootouts as possible, and I’m sure it’s going to.”

With the new overtime policies in place, general managers and league officials hope to have more games decided in overtime. The idea behind the 3-on-3 concept is that there is more room for players to attack in the offensive zone, creating more lethal chances to score. The NHL’s adoption of 3-on-3 overtime would appear to be tailor-made for a player such as Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Karlsson stated, “Yes and no, because you play even more sometimes,” He said shortly after receiving the Norris Trophy at the NHL Awards on Wednesday. “It’s one of those things that yes, I do think it’s going to end more games in [overtime], but at the same time it’s going to put a lot more pressure on some people that log a lot of minutes and it’s going to be hard on your body playing 3-on-3. “But at the same time, it’s a lot of fun. For me it doesn’t really matter. I think everybody plays to win in regulation, and if it goes to overtime I think everyone plays to win there too. I don’t think anyone is doing anything they can to get to the shootout. If you get there yes, it’s a bit of a lottery, but at the same time I think it’s a good show. We have a lot of good, talented guys who can make it interesting.” It’s important to know that the last thing you want to give a good hockey player is time and space, because they will score, and that’s the idea behind this new rule. It typically enables the game to end in overtime and alleviates the game from proceeding to shootout form. “We’re trying to make a move to a format that we think is going to decide more games in overtime,” said Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, who has been pushing for overtime reform for a long time. “We’re not looking to eliminate shootout. We think the fans like the shootout. But we think the fans will enjoy 3-on-3.”

Personally, I feel that this is a very smart move for the NHL. The speed that comes in to play on a 3 on 3 situation is highly lethal, especially at a professional level as such. Given the fact that I have been involved in the sport for so long, it is inevitable that when you give a skilled player time and space, 9 times out of ten, they will score or create a play that results in a goal. This new policy obviously doesn’t rid the shootout completely, but it keeps the games shorter because teams typically score within the first two minutes of post regulation play.

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