Seconds left, down by one and the net is empty.
The ending of an NHL game can be one of the most exciting moments in sports. However, some fans don’t enjoy one specific way of finishing a game, the shootout. Most fans have even called for the shootout to be eliminated entirely.
To determine whether the shootout is actually a good idea we need to go back and see how it came to be. The shootout has not been around since the beginning, with games originally ending in a tie after the end of regulation. The NHL would then adopt a 10 minute overtime period for a short while but then later removed it. The NHL would bring back the overtime period but this time it only lasted five minutes, and games that were still not decided at that point were recorded as ties. It wasn’t until the 2005-06 season when the NHL implemented a shootout that would take place after the five minute overtime period if necessary. This would effectively remove the tie from the NHL.
The goal of the shootout was simple…eliminate ties and give fans a new exciting strategy to the game. Fans already loved the breakaway and penalty shots, so this was a new way to give them more of this exciting play. With the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) already using the shootout to decide Word Championships and Olympic Games, it made hockey constant across the board.
One of the biggest complaints about the shootout is that it does not fairly decide who the better team is. However, the object of hockey is to outplay the other team and put the puck in the back of the net. The shootout still does this but just in a different way. The best NHL teams also don’t seem to do better in the shootout. For example, the NHL leading Tampa Bay Lightning are 5-2 in OT and 4-1 in the shootout this season. Teams like the lowly Los Angeles Kings are 5-3 in OT and 1-1 in the shootout.
When it comes to players and coaches, the reaction to the shootout is split. Players like Washington’s T.J. Oshie love the shootout. Oshie made his mark in a shootout game that took place in the Olympics. Shootout rules are a little different when it comes to the Olympics as the same skaters are allowed to shoot multiple times in a row. Oshie would go on to shoot six times and scored on four of them versus Russia. No American hockey fan doesn’t remember this moment as it became arguably the most magnificent ending to a hockey game.
Oshie wasn’t the only one to have a shootout that would be remembered for ages. One of the most exciting moves used in the shootout was the Spin-O- Rama. This move was used by players from Evgeni Malkin to Martin St. Louis and they never disappointed. Unfortunately, the NHL would make this move illegal, but players continued to make jaw-dropping moves that left fans speechless. Perhaps the best part of the shootout is that it gives players like former Rangers defenseman, Marek Malik a chance to steal the show. Malik was chosen to shoot for the Rangers in the 15th round of a shootout, (One of the longest in NHL history). The catch, Malik had not scored a goal up to that point, so no one expected him to do much, but he pulled off the unthinkable. Malik made a through the legs move to lift the Rangers to victory.
Unfortunately, not all players enjoy it though. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos was openly against it when a shootout decided the Olympic gold medal game in 2018. “It would be like a playoff game being decided by the shootout. It would be absolutely ridiculous.” Luckily for Stamkos, the shootout is not used in the NHL playoffs to avoid this exact situation. However, a poll conducted by ESPN back in 2005 showed that most players were okay with it because the fans enjoyed watching it. The shootout often has fans on the edge of their seats as the players skate in looking to make a dazzling move and put the puck in the back of the net.
With the recent changes to overtime moving to a three-on-three format, many wonder why the NHL doesn’t just extend overtime like it does in the playoffs. The answer is money. The average length of overtime in the playoffs is about 13 minutes with the longest recorded games going an extra 60 minutes. As for the shootout, there are no official times of how long they take, but generally, each round only takes about a minute and with the longest shootout ever recorded being 20 rounds, that means the longest shootout would only be about 20 minutes. The reason this matters is the NHL has to purchase TV time, and the longer games go the more money it costs the league and their teams.
The shootout not only gives fans a new and exciting way to watch games, but it also saves the league time and money. The anticipation of a 1one-on-one situation is unmatched, and without the shootout, hockey would have lost some of its greatest moments. While you still may not feel that the shootout justly decides a winner, it is not a common occurrence.