Monday, November 17, 2008

The Shootout Debate Continues

A lot of people hate the post-lockout intrusion of the overtime shoot-out. What's worse, the shoot-out, a "skills competition" according to Greg Wyshynski, decides the game and destroys the "overall integrity of team sports." I'm intrigued by his view, and even a little sympathetic to it, but ultimately I enjoy shoot-outs and think they ought to remain in the game. My perspective is horribly biased and distorted, though, as I only became a huge hockey fan after the lockout (NHL brass, take note).

Elsewhere, at the Boston Globe in fact, Kevin Paul Dupont rages:

NHL purists, the few who remain, hold a general disdain for all things related to the shootout. It's a gimmick, a guarantee to send one team home a winner and the other team home a half-loser. What else can we call it when it's awarded with a "1" in the "PTS" column?

You lose, but not really - sort of the NHL's equivalent of scoring 300 on the SAT just for showing up, or everyone in youth soccer going home with a trophy at the end of the season, even if they played on an 0-8 team that scored two goals all season.

The NHL just can't seem to accept pure winners and pure losers. Must be some Canadian thing.

This is really atrocious. Again, I'm emphatically not a "purist" or traditionalist, as I came to the game after the lockout and I enjoy the luxury of having shootout heroes like Slava Kozlov on my favorite team. But I think it would do Dupont and other "purists" some good to consider how the game has changed throughout its history and how sometimes what they imagine to be upholding the purity or integrity of hockey tradition is really just knee-jerk fundamentalism. I certainly don't mean to say that ALL efforts to conserve hockey traditions, and all efforts to resist new features that the NHL has implemented, add up to a rigid fundamentalism, but I think some of the melodrama over shootouts and the overtime point (with the gratuitous dig at those dastardly Canucks and their communistic hatred of having clear-cut winners and losers) is just that.

In fact, I am a traditionalist in certain areas: I hate the instigator rule, for instance. I'm just not a tradition-fundamentalist, in that I don't think everything old in hockey (whatever that might be, since the NHL has changed so much in so many ways over the century) is automatically good and everything new is automatically bad.

Some of my favorite hockey moments have been in shoot-outs, and I think they do a lot in the way of highlighting the achievement of individual players, shooters and goalies alike. Shootouts could generate even more excitement and attention to the league if the shooters were forced to remove their helmets. There's really no point in wearing a helmet during a shootout, right?

Well, I've added my sixpence. What do you kids think about the shootout?


aaron said...

There's really no point in wearing a helmet during a shootut, right?

...unless you're a big freakin goon like Scott Hartnell.

Anonymous said...

I like the excitement of the shootout. But, If the NHL MUST have a shootout, I don't think they should automatically award a point just for making it to overtime. If a team loses in overtime, no point. It's just a loss. If a team loses in a shootout, then award a point. Personally, I'd like to just see a sudden death overtime until someone scores. Wins and losses. None of this OTL bullshit.