Love the game, hate the shootout

The Moncton Wildcats got to celebrate a "fake win" thanks to the abomination of the shootout

By Nathan White

I watched a third period Friday that could make you love junior hockey and hate the shootout at the same time.

A sold-out crowd of 6,488 at Harbour Station in Saint John, N.B. Most trying to cheer the Saint John Sea Dogs back from a 3-2 deficit against their biggest rival, but with healthy support for the Moncton Wildcats, who play 80 minutes away. So many future NHLers, some shifts had the feel of watching a Top Prospects Game.

Phenom forward Kirill Kabanov of the Wildcats would deke around a defender at one end. His Russian counterpart Stanislav Galiev of the Sea Dogs would come right back down and deke two. And Wildcats defenseman Brandon Gormley of Murray River, P.E.I., a higher-ranked 2010 NHL draft prospect than both of them, would swoop in to break up the rush. The next shift it would be Galiev outmuscling Gormley, Gormley unloading a point shot, or Kabanov trying another shoulder-shake worthy of a wide receiver.

That’s without even mentioning the 12 players in this game already drafted by NHL teams, or 2011-eligible prospect Zack Phillips, who had strangers high-fiving each other when he made it 3-3 midway through the third. Or that the Sea Dogs killed a five-minute power play when captain Mike Thomas was ejected for charging.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH A TIE?

All of that and more added up to a back-and-forth barnburner between rivals. But history will record it as a 4-3 “win” for the Wildcats thanks to the abomination of the shootout.

Some nights junior hockey teams play forgettable games before half-empty buildings on Tuesdays after getting back from six-day bus trips. Some nights there are yawners between mismatched teams where the outcome is decided in the first period. This was, as they say, “a playoff atmosphere,” with subplots of trash talk and coaching matchups, more entertaining than some NHL games.

It would have been a perfect night to let both teams walk away with a point.

Of course the shootout is entertaining. Fans get excited to watch it. But I hate it.

Not only does the system (two points to the “winner,” one to the “loser”) create an unbalanced point economy by making some games worth three points and others two, it also has an unbalanced effect on the emotional tenor of the teams. After the game I just described, the Wildcats were in a celebratory mood in the dressing room, while the Sea Dogs couldn’t get out of there fast enough with their loser point. No shootout would have meant – GASP – a tie! One point each is not exactly what either team wanted, but it would have left them feeling like they played hard for something.

DO WE ALWAYS NEED A WINNER?

Why is it we need to declare a “winner” for every regular-season game, even if it’s by fraudulent means? Is it something about our consumerist society, that we can’t live with ambiguity? Do we need to leave the rink with a “product,” i.e. a winner, even if we have to manufacture it?

And what have we done to the excitement of the penalty shot? I didn’t even mention there was a penalty shot in this game. That used to be something people would go home talking about. Now you can watch four shootouts on SportsCentre every morning.

Does anyone remember that the 3-3 tie between the Montreal Canadians and the Soviet Red Army in 1975 is considered an all-time great game in hockey history?

I had an old coach who used to say a tie was like kissing your sister. But isn’t it nice to kiss your sister, once in a while?

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~ by Nathan White on March 6, 2010.

4 Responses to “Love the game, hate the shootout”

  1. Get tid of the shootout. 4on4 is the way to go or just eliminate it all togethor.

  2. Get rid of the shootout. 4on4 is the way to go or just eliminate it all togethor.

  3. I agree that the shootout should go. Excellent point re the unbalanced economy where some games are worth three points and others are worth two.

  4. […] Love the game, hate the shootout March 2010 3 comments […]

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