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WHL moving to 3-on-3 overtime format in effort to reduce shootouts

By Ryan McCracken on September 02, 2015

The CHL is following the NHL's lead and instituting a 3-on-3 overtime format in hopes of reducing the number of games decided by shootout. (Staff photo by Graeme Frisque)

The NHL recently opted to change its overtime format to allow a five-minute period of 3-on-3 hockey following a 60-minute stalemate, and its little brother, the CHL, will be following suit.

The CHL has been known to follow the lead of its big league counterpart — like it did with its playoff format last season — and 3-on-3 overtime proves to be no different.

“We kind of mirror the NHL rules as much as possible,” said WHL vice president of hockey operations Rick Doerksen. “Along with our counterparts in Ontario and Quebec, the Canadian Hockey League decided that all three leagues will play the same overtimes rules the NHL is using.”

The reason for the change is simple, to allow more games to be decided in overtime without resorting to a shootout, thus creating a more accurate portrayal of the standings come post-season. While shootouts are ultimately exciting, I’m on the side that would rather see a real goal decide an on-ice contest. If I’m being honest, I’d rather see a tie than a shootout — especially considering the skills contest can play a hefty hand in determining playoff position.

“I think for people that look at it that way, that will certainly be advantageous,” said Doerksen.

Shootouts ultimately remove the team element from the game, reducing the competition to a matter of individual skill, only to take away the shootout when the post-season rolls around. While it’s unanimously agreed that the shootout holds no place in playoff hockey, there are still many supporters of its presence in the regular season due to the excitement it provides.

That said, 3-on-3 hockey always provides a thrill, and it doesn’t remove the team element from the game.

The AHL overtime model features seven minutes of sudden death, starting with three minutes of 4-on-4 and extending into four minutes of 3-on-3 if necessary, and it’s done wonders for the game, with 75 percent of overtime games decided without resorting to a shootout in 2014-15 — while 65 per cent of games extending past regulation required a shootout in 2013-14.  The WHL saw 64 games decided in overtime last season, while 69 went all the way to a shootout. That's a lot of games riding on a single breakaway chance.

 “We’ve been advised that going to 3-on-3, we should have a much higher rate of games being determined in 3-on-3 as opposed to the shootout,” said Doerksen.

I’m personally on the side of doing anything possible to remove the shootout from the equation, as I believe it has the potential to muddle the standings and frankly I find it far less exciting than the game itself.

On that note, I happily support the inclusion of 3-on-3 hockey at the WHL level, and I’m excited to see how things unfold this season.

Are you a fan of the WHL’s decision to switch to 3-on-3 overtime? Let us know on Twitter @HockeyNow.

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By Ryan McCracken| September 02, 2015
Categories:  Major Junior
Keywords:  QMJHL

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