“Bettman has only a marginal interest in the weaker teams. He only wants the NHL to make a bigger profit as a whole.” -- Dominik Hasek

April 19, 2007

If It's Not Really Broken...

So Game 1 of the playoff series between Vancouver and Dallas went a little long. Four overtime periods is a lot to ask anyone to watch, and a lot of East-Coasters expressed frustration over having to stay up super-late to see the end of the game.

One would assume that the discussion would last a couple of days and then be forgotten, but this is the "new" NHL, where every tiny public relations flap is considered a horrible crisis that must immediately be addressed by sweeping rule changes.

ESPN.com contributor Tery Frei, though ultimately siding with tradition (20-minute, 5-on-5 overtime periods until one goal is scored), offers several alternative options for playoff games that are still tied at the end of regulation. While we often doubt much of Frei's judgment, he's right to want to uphold the current formula.

Sports Illustrated columnist Michael Farber, on the other hand, does not share Frei's conviction. In fact, Farber is the first into the lifeboat of the doomed SS Hockey Playoffs, or so it would seem. In one of his suggestions, he offers this:

If you are in the business of attracting eyeballs, you want to make sure those eyeballs are still open when the winning goal is scored.

Well sure, that makes sense. But does it really have anything to do with the NHL playoffs? How many games actually go until 2:00 AM? How many fans are turned off from the games simply because there is a chance it might go to double, triple or quadruple overtime? Does anyone ever say to themselves, "Man, I'd really like to watch the Canucks play Dallas tonight, but there's a small chance it might not end in regulation and I just couldn't handle staying up an extra hour. I just won't bother at all."

Since the 1999-2000 series, exactly THREE playoff games have gone as long or longer than the recent Canucks-Stars game. Since 1995-1996, the number is four. In more than a decade, only FOUR playoff games have gone to four or more overtime periods. Is that a crisis? Is that a major PR disaster for the league?

The endless soul-searching, currently the fad in the NHL, has got to end. Every time someone gets knocked out in a fight, the lemmings line up to ban fighting. Every time a game ends with a score of 1-0, the lemmings line up to widen the goals. And now every time a playoff game ends in overtime, the lemmings line up to dump the traditions of the sport and implement cheap gimmicks like the shootout.

Let the playoffs be. With four exceptions in the past decade, the system works just fine. Stop trying to fix everything that isn't broken.

2 comments:

B_Washington said...

I pretty much agree with you and Terry Frei. I'm not in favor of changing overtime at all. I could see something small like "after 2-3 OT's, The format will shit to 4 vs 4 until another team scores". I think i could stomach that kind of small change, but really the biggest thing they can do is call OT's as they call the first period and the game will rarely ever last until 4OTs (and even then it rarely does anyways)

Hockey's great, why do people feel the need to change it. (even though i do see the logic behind widening the goals slightly)

Dear Lord Stanley said...

I'd rather restrict goalie padding than widen the goals, to be honest. I'd be more comfortable with Martin Brodeur looking like Ken Dryden than I would with bigger goals. But hey, whatever.

As for multiple OTs, switching to 4-on-4 eventually wouldn't be the end of the world, but again, how often would that be necessary anyway? Very few games ever drag on that long.

It's just not that big of a deal.

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