Once again this week we had to watch the Flyers lose an overtime game via the dreaded shootout, one of the many idiotic “improvements” Gary Bettman has made to the NHL. I won’t even get into the myriad other ways he has destroyed the sport (like expansion run wild, turning the NHL into the No Hit League, or letting stick-swinging cheap-shot artists run amok because players can no longer police such incidents without facing suspension . . . and does anybody remember the glowing puck?). It’s as if Bettman’s ultimate goal is to turn the NHL into a live-action video game.
I’m not just against this format because the Flyers’ all-time shootout record is 8-20 (though that certainly contributes to my discontent), but because it’s ridiculous to decide a professional sporting event with a gimmick that favors individual achievement over teamwork. It doesn’t matter that the teams battled back and forth all game to arrive at a stalemate, we’re going to decide the winner by letting a bunch of finesse players flash their skills. It would be like deciding a basketball game with a slam dunk competition, a football game with a field goal contest, a baseball game with a home run derby . . . or home field advantage in the World Series by the winner of the—umm, never mind.
In the Flyers’ latest shootout loss, they had stormed back from a 3-goal deficit against the high-flying Penguins to take a one-goal lead, only to have the Pens tie it late and send it into overtime. A game like that deserves to be decided by the teams on the ice or not at all. Expand the overtime from five to ten minutes, and if it’s still tied, let it remain a tie. Don’t reward one team for having more finesse players—it’s an insult to true hockey fans as well as to the players who busted their tails all game long. The NHL would never decide a playoff game with a shootout, so why should the regular season standings be affected by such a farce?