January 3, 2007 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Shootouts Stink

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Is the headline to this article forceful enough? I'd use other words, but this is a family publication.

The outcome of today's excellent World Junior Championship semifinal between Canada and the United States only provided the latest window of opportunity to assess the wretched nature of shootouts in the sport of hockey.

This is not sour grapes. I will submit to a lie detector test immediately, if necessary, to prove that I would be writing this very same article had the U.S. won the shootout. I remember, clearly, for example, how nauseating it was to watch the 1994 Olympic gold-medal game — a great game between Canada and Sweden — ruined by the shootout.

Nobody wins when there's a shootout.

Do we need to go through the same arguments? They've probably all been heard before:

Shootouts are not real hockey. You don't play a game for 60 minutes, requiring all the skill, strength and stamina of your entire roster — and then turn and decide a game based on the breakaway skills of a few select players. It's anathema to the very reason why you are competing to begin with. It's like a home run derby to decide a baseball game, or a free throw shooting contest to decide a basketball game.

Proponents of shootouts say they add excitement. Well, so would exploding pylons randomly scattered around the ice, but we aren't doing that. So would naked co-ed ice hockey, but we aren't legislating that.

Proponents say they hate ties, and people should go home with some satisfaction one way or another. Well, neverminding the glorious satisfaction of a playoff overtime — because I think anyone outside the IIHF at least agrees with that — they are also unsatisfying in the regular season. Shootouts are not a satisfactory alternative to ties in the slightest. They leave you with an empty feeling, even if your own team wins.

It doesn't matter whether it's regular season or the playoffs. The same sick, empty feeling remains the same. Sure, we've become desensitized somewhat to the regular-season shootout in the NHL and minor leagues by this point. And, with greater battles to fight in college hockey, many of us have just chosen to ignore the regular-season shootout for now.

But if it comes to college hockey, watch out. Guns will be blazing.

And finally, there's the point. This is being discussed in college hockey. Apparently, there is a directive to discuss ways that ties will be eliminated in college hockey in the future.

If that happens, there will be an outcry like college hockey hasn't heard before.

Even most proponents of shootouts in regular-season college hockey probably agree that deciding today's ultra-important World Junior game with one was wrong. But don't stop there. Let the empty feeling of today's events be a lesson to college hockey administrators everywhere — that, at least for anyone with a soul, the same feeling pervades even if it's during the regular season.

Yes, shootouts stink.

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