It really wasn’t a secret — the WHL will be using five-minute 3-on-3 overtime periods in its 50th anniversary season as it attempts to cut down on the number of games that end up in shootouts.
That the WHL would make this move from 4-on-4 was evident from the minute the NHL decided to make the switch.
“We kind of mirror the NHL rules as much as possible,” Richard Doerksen, the WHL’s vice-president of hockey operations, told Ryan McCracken of hockeynow.ca in a story that is right here. “Along with our counterparts in Ontario and Quebec, the Canadian Hockey League decided that all three leagues will play the same overtimes rules the NHL is using.”
Last season, the Seattle Thunderbirds were in a WHL-high 12 shootouts, with the Everett Silvertips and Red Deer Rebels each in 11. All told, 64 games were decided in a shootout. (If the shootout proved anything, it is that the goaltenders have a rather large advantage — 17 of the 22 teams scored on fewer than 30 per cent of their shootout opportunities.
For the past week or so, WHL teams have been practising 3-on-3 play in training camps. On Tuesday night, for example, the Kamloops Blazers did it after the conclusion of their intrasquad game. F Garrett Pilon, a 30-goal man with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts last season, scored six seconds into OT. They went ahead and played the remainder of the period; there were chances but no goals.
Seriously, though, this is simply another gimmick, a first-cousin to the shootout.
I have mentioned this before, and now I am pleading: Please, please, please . . . go back to the days of tie games. There was a time when teams would play 60 minutes — three 20-minute periods — and whatever happened was allowed to happen.
Hockey is a great game that is quite capable of standing on its own; it doesn’t need gimmicks to prop it up.