A shocking revelation   9 comments

There are no habs games for a few days. Everyone is busy fighting over the goalies situation. I’ve decided this was the right moment  to disclose you something important, dear readers. Sit down, I don’t want any of you to  faint because of the shock.

I like the shootout.

There, I said it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve watched soccer my whole life. In soccer, as you may know, when a game needs a winner, there’s a 30 minutes OT, then a shootout. I’m really used to that system, so maybe that’s why I consider it as a valid and legitimate way to end a game when no team prevailed.

When it comes to hockey, the critics of the shootout often say that it’s only a sideshow, that it’s not real hockey, and that it shouldn’t be used to decide a game. They say that hockey is a team sport, and that it goes against this to have the game decided only by a player and a goalie.

I disagree with that. In the shootout, you have a skater with a stick going down the ice and trying to put the puck in the net, behind a goalie with his full equipment. To score or to make a save on a shootout attempt requires skills. Hockey skills. For both the skater and the goalie, it takes the same qualities than when a breakaway happens, which is a common game situation. To me, the shootout is part of the game. Penalty shots are not very common in hockey, but they do exist. So honestly, I even think it’s less of a alteration of the game than removing a guy from each team to play OT.

“Please, no more of this, that’s not real hockey!”

Another argument against it is that it’s basically artificially manufacturing cheap highlights reels. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with that. Yes, it’s designed to put the skaters and the goalies (but mostly the skaters, this is true) in the optimal position to “make something special”. But why is that a problem exactly? Hockey is a professional sport, but it’s also an entertainment.

Then the critics of the shootout will often ask: “But if you like it so much, would you accept it to decide a playoffs game?” Of course, the answer is almost always no. Then the shootout critics will point at the apparent hypocrisy, saying “See? Even you don’t consider this legitimate enough to decide a game that really matters!”

I think it’s a flawed argument. Personally, of course I wouldn’t want to see shootouts in the playoffs. Shootouts are dramatic (I’ll come back on that later), but a game going to triple OT is something really unique about hockey playoffs. It’s one of the most exciting traditions of this sport, and there’s absolutely no reason to change it. It just “works”. The question is not “should the shootout be brought into the playoffs?”, but rather “could the playoffs style OT be brought into the regular season?” Obviously the answer is no. Then, if you want to have every game end with a winner and a loser, I think the SO is the best option. (Of course, it could be argued that we should still have ties. Personally, I had no problem with them. But that’s another issue)

But what makes me actually like the shootout, and not just tolerate it?

To begin with, I do find it exciting. To the point that I often find myself hoping for a tied game to end in the SO rather than in the 5 minutes OT. I like seeing skilled players attempt to beat a goalie without being hooked, tripped or hold by a defenseman. I like the tension and the pressure felt by one skater or a goalie who knows he has to score or make a save to give his teammates a last chance.

I like to see whether a player will choose to be audacious, bold, or to play it safe. I like to see if that boldness will be rewarded ["Oy oy oy oy oy!" is apparently the Swedish equivalent for Benoit Brunet's "Aye aye aye!"] or bite him in the ass.

I love when the shootout goes after the initial rounds, and we get to see the defensemen and the fourth liners with a chance to be the unlikely hero, or not.

But I also like the dramatic scenery that it provides. One on one. The good old duel, just like in western movies. It makes me want to play some Ennio Morricone.

Ovie really sucks at this, so I’d definitely bet on Marty here…

This kind of drama is actually the topic of a short novel written by Peter Handke, “Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter”, translated in English as “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick”.  Wim Wenders and Handke made a movie out of this in 1972, if anyone is interested (I read the book, but never saw the film).  The book is about a soccer goalie, but the tension is virtually the same in hockey. (Wooo! I’m so proud I managed to mention Peter Handke on a hockey blog… I’m such a snob!)

Of course, the drama is limited when the object of the shootout is an extra point in a meaningless November game. But as the season goes on and every point becomes more important, the tension definitely raises

I know the shootout is not very popular around the hockey blogosphere. But personally, I like it, and I even think this was a pretty smart move from Bettman and co. It already produced some pretty memorable moments, and a few highlights reel goals and saves. It’s not what I like the most about hockey, but it’s definitely something I appreciate. I don’t think this opinion makes me a lesser fan, and I hope the “holier-than-thou” attitude of some of the shootout critics will wane, because frankly, I’m a little fed up with it.

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Posted January 12, 2010 by Grrrreg in Uncategorized

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9 responses to “A shocking revelation

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  1. I am indifferent to the shootout. I don’t find it nearly as exciting as it’s purported to be. But I agree, it’s not the circus act shootout-critics say it is either. But at the same time, how much can anyone really like a tie? You need a way to break a tie and when overtime fails to do that, the shootout is a tiebreaker that’s better than flipping a coin (thank God coin-flips never factor into our sport).

    I would not even be opposed to shootouts in the playoffs after Triple OT. I mean, people are falling asleep and the players are just getting exhausted and it’s probably not great for logistical purposes to go into a fourth of fifth OT. As exciting as “infinite overtime” is, a shootout in the playoffs after an extra 60 minutes of 5 on 5 hockey would be just as thrilling.

  2. WAIT! Did you just infer that Bettman had a good idea?!!!! OMG. o____O

    Um yeah… that’s actually an interesting take on it. I personally don’t really like the shootout. It really doesn’t seem right in some ways. I mean, wasn’t the last World Cup decided in a shootout (and the Champions League thing two years ago when Man-U won)?. It doesn’t seem right – particularly in a huge event like the World Cup.

    Then again, it’s a bit different in hockey when the net isn’t the size of a truck and it doesn’t effect the playoffs. I think probably for me, I just dont’ see why we can’t have ties in hockey. I dont’ see why there always has to be a winner. Sometimes both teams deserve to win (or lose). I also think I might be less tempted to be annoyed with the shootout or OT if that damn loser point didn’t exist. That just – for me – cheapens the win a lot if you’re playing a division or conference rival. I guess that’s another matter entirely, but I think it’s related.

  3. Shan: I don’t want shootouts in the playoffs. Triple OT games are still pretty rare, you get only a few every year, so I don’t really see the need to change that format.

    EP: I agree that it’s really frustrting to see a world cup decided that way. Especially if you’re on the losing side, of course! :/

    Anyway yeah, I’m more annoyed with the points system and the idea that ties are never a good outcome. I think a good tie can really be satisfying.

    About points, I don’t mind the loser point, because losing in OT is not the same as losing in regulation. What really annoys me is that all games are not worth the same numbers of points. I would be ok if every game was worth 3 points. If you win in regulation, you get all 3 points, if you win in OT/SO you get only 2, and if you lose in OT/SO you get 1. That way, the hierarchy is clearly established: regulation win > OT/SO win > OT/SO loss > regulation loss.
    And no one gets screwed if two divisional opponents share 3 points instead of 2.

  4. Yes… I figured you would agree about the World Cup at least *G*

    I still think a loss is a loss, but I do like your idea for the points. The NHL has said they don’t like the potential huge point differential if a win was worth 3 points but I don’t see how your idea would create a huge differential.

  5. I should be the commissioner. I really can’t understand why they’re not calling me already. Maybe my phone is not working well…

  6. Well, clearly they’re not calling you because they’re trying to call me :D

  7. Well then answer them, and hire me as your adviser already!

  8. After time it loses it’s excitement. There just isn’t a lot of variation – a player can only do so much with a puck – only so many moves, and most don’t have any.

    A game last week – 22 players took their turn – that is ridiculous. and boring.

    And how come nobody takes slap shots? unwritten rule/code??

  9. Thanks for commenting otisfxu. About the slapshot option, I’ve seen a few people try it, but this is pretty rare… They should try that more often, because every time I saw it, it worked.

    The only move I don’t really like in the shootout is when the skater makes a spinorama and ends up in the goalies face. The goalie has almost no chance because the skater bumps him. I remember Khabibulin whacked a guy in the head after he did that.

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