Why We Should Be Glad Hockey Doesn’t Need A “Pitch Clock”

Hockey, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Hockey, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The first weekend of the 2023 MLB season is in the books. Even if you were paying more attention to the ice than the baseball diamond, you probably heard about MLB’s new rule changes for this year.

This will be the first season in the “pitch clock” era, where batters and pitchers have time limits in between each pitch and batter in an effort to speed up the game.

Hockey is the fastest sport in the world. Nothing about the NHL’s product feels like it needs to be “sped up”, as opposed to baseball which can have copious amounts of downtime.

Fans have complained that MLB games lasted too long. I’ve never heard of anyone complaining an NHL game lasted too long unless maybe it was a multiple-overtime playoff game and you had a train to catch.

Hockey is full of action, so there’s nothing to take out of the experience.

Let’s just say for sake of argument someone tried to make the fan experience at a game a bit shorter. Maybe they want to get there, watch the action, and get back home at a more reasonable time. Where could hockey even cut a few minutes? It’s unthinkable that anyone would ever want a period to last less than 20 minutes.

A possible place might be making intermissions a bit shorter. Considering how physically demanding the sport of hockey is, however, the players need every minute of that valuable rest in their respective locker rooms.

That wouldn’t be worth cutting intermissions from their normal 18 minutes to 15 minutes. Plus, we can use those valuable three minutes in the concession lines.

The pitch clock has received a very positive reception from most baseball fans. From a hockey fan perspective, it made me think “What would be the hockey equivalent”? After those failed ideas, such as the aforementioned shorter intermission, I came to the conclusion that we should be glad hockey doesn’t need a “pitch clock”.

The sport of hockey has undergone different eras, different styles of play, and different transformations, but each has been filled with action and excitement.

Baseball had so much downtime that the middle of an inning became a convenient time to go the bathroom, grab a drink, or buy some food. When’s the last time you ever considered leaving your seat in the middle of a hockey game to do any of those things (okay, maybe if it was a blowout win or loss we would)?

In a Los Angeles Times article on the matter, MLB’s Vice President of On-Field Strategy Joe Martinez said It best:

"“But you still get your money’s worth,” said Martinez. “We’re not cutting out the part that you’re paying for, we’re cutting out the part where nothing’s happening.”"

There’s no “part where nothing happens” in the NHL. Every second matters. Every second is filled with action. Every second has fans getting their money’s worth.

Obviously, the scenario is different with hockey being continuous and baseball being a sport of stop-and-go. Cutting down on any of the game time would be cutting down on the hockey itself.

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While other sports need to keep track of the time, let that hockey clock keep running. The game can change, but we’ll always have those three, twenty-minute periods. Be glad we don’t need our version of a “pitch clock”.