By: Luke Johns
“It will be end-to-end action, a lot of open ice, lots of plays being made, a lot of great saves,” Islanders captain John Tavares told USA Today. ““It is going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
The word “mayhem” was used by USA Today to hype up this new format.
News broke on June 24 that the NHL board of governors had approved a rule change that called for 3-on-3 overtime in the regular season. It was one of the first major rule change since the NHL resumed after the 2005 lockout. Frankly, anyone who doesn’t like this is either mad because their favorite team doesn’t benefit from it or is just flat-out boring.
The vast majority of the hockey world can agree that ties were bad. Who likes ties? They’re boring. Just before the 2005-06 season, the new CBA had it so ties were abolished. The shootout was brought into play and ten years later it has produced mixed feelings. The most popular praise about it is that it’s entertaining for the fans and gives players the opportunity to showcase their skill. However, the most popular criticism is it’s considered a “gimmick” and it’s not traditional to have a hard-fought game end because one team has a player who may be slightly better at dangling a goaltender.
3-on-3 provides a reasonable compromise for both opinions. Entering Saturday, only 35 percent of overtime games led to shootout, compared to a much higher 58 percent at the same time last year. Those stats clearly show that not only so-called gimmicks aren’t deciding games, but also nobody can complain about the long length of games either. Meanwhile 3-on-3 gives players an incredible amount of open ice to showcase their talents and creativity, and make plays that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to with more defenders on the ice. It adds a new level of fast-paced excitement.
More on the open-ice benefit, it will change how general managers look for players in a good way. When a team only has three skaters on the ice in a sudden-death situation, it will make it that much more important for players to be in top-notch physical condition due to the extra amount of skating and to possess the talent to actually take advantage of all the open ice. GMs will begin to look for players in better shape and with more skill, who can complain about that?
Goalies can even be included in that logic too. It’s exhausting to stop shot after shot, after shot. With 3-on-3, more odd-man and 1-1 rushes down the ice happen ultimately creating more scoring chances. Goalies will have to be in top-notch condition too.
Despite the fact that not every game is tied after regulation, losing in overtime can be even more invigorating for the winner and even more demoralizing for the loser. It will definitely be an aspect that players, coaches and upper management will have to prepare for. With playoff berths sometimes coming down to one point, teams would be remiss to not prepare for 3-on-3.
Overall the new format causes a lot of back-and-forth movement up and down the ice. One-on-one battles are common and it’s just exciting to watch because you never know what can happen at any given moment.
Not everyone has been thrilled with the new format though. Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien told the Winnipeg Free Press that 3-on-3 is “stupid” and a “terrible part of hockey.” Keep in mind that those comments were made after the Jets lost to the Lightning in overtime on Friday.
Sure it may take players a while to adapt to the point where they’re not extremely out of their comfort zone, but I think that if players who aren’t in favor at the moment give it a chance and have an open mind, it’ll warm up to them. It’s an incredible opportunity to not only spark excitement among casual NHL fans, it will additionally re-shape how players play as well. I am confident that the natural changes that result from 3-on-3 will be primarily positive, therefore making this the best (and coolest) thing to have happened to the NHL this century.