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Opinion

College hockey does not need shootouts

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February 12, 2009

Since the National Hockey League (NHL) came back from its lockout season in 2005, it implemented shootouts in regular season games to eliminate ties and always have a winner.

This was supposed to get fans interested in a game that has suffered in popularity compared to the other major professional sports.

With an 82-game regular season schedule, the NHL can get away with it, but in college hockey shootouts must stay away.

Typically, college hockey teams play 25-30 regular season games prior to the postseason, so having shootouts will give teams an opportunity to gain more points and put more emphasis on individual play rather than team play.

Think of it this way: two teams play 60 minutes of regulation hockey, then five more minutes of overtime as a team.

After that, how about we slow the game down and make it a one-on-one game, between a shooter and a goalie to decide the outcome game?
Not the way to do it for the collegiate level.

Games and conference points are way too important to fool around with, considering how short the season is with winter and holiday breaks and the fact that the season is three months shorter than the NHL.

In the NHL, there are 60 minutes of regulation hockey and teams are rewarded two points for winning a regulation game while the losing team gets zero. However, if the teams have to go into overtime, both teams get one point and the team that scores in overtime gets an additional point.

The same rules apply for shootouts, which happen when two teams do not score a goal in the overtime session, so they settle the tie with a best-of-three shootout.

The Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), a Div. I conference that have the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame (Ind.), to name a few, are using the shootout for the first time this season.

What happens with this is some teams, such as Notre Dame this year, have won three games by shootouts, therefore have three more points than it would have if last year’s rules were in place.

As a result, the Fighting Irish have a four point lead in the CCHA, when it would have had only a one point lead last season, which would have made the remaining conference games on their schedule a little more meaningful.

Not saying the rest of Notre Dame’s games are not important, but with only a one-point cushion, it might have a little bit more pressure the rest of the season, which calls for exciting hockey in one of the stronger Div. I conferences.

Steve Freeman, UW-River Falls’ men’s hockey head coach, said he disapproves having shootouts in college hockey.

“I’m not a fan at all,” he said. “It makes it into an individual game as opposed to a team game. There’s a lot of emphasis put on the goalie when it shouldn’t be. This is a great team sport and is supposed to be one of the fastest sports out there and the shootout would slow the game down.”

Prior to the season, former UWRF coach George Gwozdecky, who coached the Falcons from 1981-84 and currently is the head coach at the University of Denver with two national titles (2004, 2005), said in an interview with insidecollegehockey.com that he did not like the idea of having shootouts in college hockey, agreeing with Freeman, as he said you play 65 minutes as a team, than put two players against each other to decide who wins and loses.

As I said before, the NHL can do this because there are so many games, that a shootout can be a breath of fresh air at times.

At the collegiate level, it would change the game completely. Teams might come in with a different mindset going into overtime. Perhaps a team with a solid breakaway goalie, such as UWRF’s Melissa Deardorff of the women’s team, who made three breakaway saves in a 5-1 win against Concordia University-Wisconsin this past Saturday.

Would women’s hockey Head Coach Joe Cranston played the overtime period a little differently if the game was tied after regulation?

He might have, especially with the skilled forwards he has on his team that would be in a shootout.

The game of college hockey is exciting enough as it is. I always tell my anti-hockey friends to watch a college game first before you judge hockey as a whole, because the NHL can be dull to watch at times, because of smaller rinks, bigger players and more defensive minded coaches.

College hockey is faster and more open than the professional game, which actually makes it more exciting, so it does not need to copy the NHL and slow the game down by going to shootouts to determine a winner for every game.

In my opinion, I hope the CCHA rules do not make their way throughout the NCAA, because it would change a game that is already entertaining as it is now.

Justin Magill is a student at UW-River Falls.