The NHL will adopt a new 3-on-3 overtime format in 2015-16 in an effort to cut down on the number of games decided by a shootout. Despite deploying a change which will drastically reduce the importance and frequency of the shootout, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has reiterated that the shootout isn’t going anywhere and a majority of fans are still in favor.
Bettman’s comments, as seen in the Boston Globe, shed some insight on how the league is handling the reduction of the shootout.
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“I think to the extent some people wanted to see fewer shootouts, this will get us there, and that’s fine. The shootout isn’t going anywhere. You go to a building during a shootout, everybody’s on their feet, nobody is leaving, which is what it was designed to do. It’s exciting, it’s fun, it’s entertaining, and so if we’re going to try and reduce the number of shootouts, this may do it.”
Despite the anecdotal evidence — the legions of fans (and media, and GMs) that are vocally anti-shootout — Bettman pointed to fan research that says “overwhelmingly fans like it.” He added, “I think you see some people in the hockey community say they’d rather see fewer shootouts, but this is a sport that had ties for so many years and nobody liked that. And we’re not in the position in the regular season for a whole host of reasons to play games to the end in sudden death the way we do in the playoffs.”
Say what you will about Bettman, but his remarks were pretty accurate. There is a vocal chunk of hockey fans who hate the shootout, but at the same time Bettman is correct that a ton of fans (albeit less vocal) love the shootout. Perhaps more importantly is how much it appeals to casual fans and even non-fans.
Bettman is also correct in the fact that fans hated ties (most probably more than the shootout) and it’s unrealistic to have players compete in marathon games during the regular season. The 3-on-3 format is a gimmick, but it’s closer to real hockey and better to settle games than the shootout.