The NHLPA Is Afraid Players Might Get Tired in 3 on 3 OT


Jan 30, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) stops the shot by the Carolina Hurricanes forward Victor Rask (49) in the shootout at PNC Arena. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL Players’ Association appears to be against a possible 3 on 3 overtime format, a format that has had some success at the AHL level, due to extra playing time for “top line” players.

The current NHL Overtime format has become a point of contention among fans, the NHL, and now the NHL Players Association. In a statement today NHLPA executive Mathieu Schneider said:

"“My real concern is that top guys are going to be put in these situations, and there will be more wear and tear on them.” –NHLPA Executive Mathieu Schneider"

At the beginning of this season the AHL (American Hockey League) adopted a new format where after 4 on 4, the OT would then go to 3 on 3 play and finally shootout if both teams failed to score in the OT time.

The current NHL overtime rules are such that after regulation the game becomes a 4 on 4 scenario for a five minute overtime. If the game is not decided by the end of the OT the game goes to a shootout where each team sends three guys individually to try and score on the goalie. If the game is still tied after three rounds (i.e. 0-0, 1-1, or 2-2) then the game goes into sudden death where only one goal is needed to win (as long as each team has had the same number of shots and the opponent has fail to score).

Whether the game ends in OT or in the shootout, the teams are still awarded 2 points in the standings for an OT/shootout win and 1 point for an OT/shootout loss. It seems, from Schneider’s statement, that the NHLPA is concerned that top line guys will have to play more in those games and cause more “wear and tear” on the players’ bodies.

NHL Overtime Rules Should Follow AHL

I disagree with the NHLPA. The AHL has a 7 minute overtime with the first 3 minutes being 4-4 and the final 4 minutes as 3 on 3 (the change occurs after the first whistle blow once the 3 minutes is up). It would be very easy for NHL overtime rules to follow a similar format, with a few tweaks.

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  • First, 4 on 4 could be for 4 minutes and the remaining 3 minutes would be 3 on 3. Let’s do a little (more?) math here: 7-5=2. The difference between overtime length now and a proposed overtime length is 2 minutes. That’s two or three shifts.

    In fact, the changes the AHL has implemented has decreased the number of games going to shootout drastically. After the first 138 games of the AHL season, a mere 5 games had gone to shootout. That’s 16.7% of games, down from around 64.7% last season. This is why the NHL overtime rules must be changed.

    The shootout is like ending an NBA game with a free throw contest. Like with anything there will be people who defend the shootout, but in my opinion those people are misguided. An NHL game should not be determined by a skills competition. It needs to be decided by playing hockey. The AHL has demonstrated that 3 on 3 is very effective in decreasing the amount of shootouts and in the long run it would be in the best interest for the NHL and the NHLPA to agree and adopt this format.

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