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3-on-3 overtime gaining support among GMs?

Sep 10, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT

Ken Holland

As a way to reduce the number of shootouts in the NHL, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has been advocating the addition of 3-on-3 overtime (if nobody scores 4-on-4) for a while now.

Today, per ESPN’s Craig Custance, we learn that Holland’s idea seems to be gaining support from his counterparts around the league:

In the prospect tournament he runs in Traverse City, Michigan, Holland implemented his version of overtime. On Sunday, he and other general managers in the building got to see what it looked like in actual game action for the first time when the Dallas Stars’ prospects beat those from the Minnesota Wild in a shootout that followed the first 3-on-3 overtime session of the tournament.

The reviews of the 3-on-3 hockey were strong.

“It’s awesome. It was fun,” said Wild GM Chuck Fletcher. “Imagine Washington and Pittsburgh with [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Alex] Ovechkin, [Mike] Green, [Kris] Letang. Every line change is an odd-man rush.”

Bear in mind that he was the GM of the losing team.

Other observers were just as enthused.

“This has been a good test case,” said Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, who is in favor of the change. “And it looks good.”

While there are fans that enjoy the shootout — and certainly it’s produced some memorable moments…

… — the number of games decided by the “skills contest” isn’t just a concern for hockey purists; it’s also an issue for those concerned with basic fairness.

The fact is, a good hockey team isn’t necessarily going to be good at shootouts, just the same as a good hockey player isn’t necessarily going to be good at them. (There’s a reason Wayne Gretzky wasn’t chosen for the shootout in the 1998 Olympics when Team Canada fell to Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic, even if many believe he should have been.)

As Holland put it earlier this year, “I’d like to have more games decided playing hockey.”

  1. sabatimus - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    Heck, if you’re going to do 3-on-3, may as well go full moron and get rid of overtime entirely, and keep the dumb shootout gimmick.

    • hockey412 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      They’re saying ADD a 3-on-3 period after the 4-on-4, in order to lessen the number of shootouts.

      • sabatimus - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        I find that even more stupid.

      • Anoesis - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        Hahaha! Reading comprehension failure, yet sticking to your guns and dismissing the whole thing. Classic.

    • isithockeyseasonyet - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      3 on 3 is the next best thing to keeping the 5 on 5 format in ot for 10 minutes and if nobody scores then its a tie. I understand nobody likes ties but teams will still ‘go for it’ if they’re already guaranteed the OTL point so I don’t think you’ll see too many ties but that’s besides the point. The shoot out is crap, that’s really the only thing I want out of the game. If that means 3 on 3 at some point, so be it, at least it’ll be exciting

      • sunderlanding - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        I love ties. I think it’s stupid the way the have it now. Like you said, teams still play for the one point, so the system didn’t fix anything. All it did was put a stupid skills competition at the end of a team game.

    • DonkeyStick - Sep 10, 2013 at 6:47 PM

      …………Somebody didn’t read the article……………

      • rsmaggiemae - Sep 12, 2013 at 1:53 AM

        I just hate the shoot out ….
        I know many fans dont like the old fashion way of just playing until someone scores like they did years ago, but I did like that much better
        I realize it could go on for hours and with schedules it would be hard on the players but then thats HOCKEY….who ever has the most stamina would win…..
        Do it just like in the play offs, I hate all the dipsy doodle shots in the shoot out, not really hockey, just my opinion…..

  2. bmscalise - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    I fail to see how 3-on-3 is any more “pure” than a shoot-out. 3-on-3 qualifies as “real” hockey? Shoot-outs are exciting too – as attested to by the crowd while they are going on.

    The switch to ROW wins has rarely made a difference in the ultimate standings in a 82-game season. And people have calculated standings based on a 3 pt. model – and – guess what! – they almost always end up pretty much the same. And despite the fuss – I fail to see how this would make things more “fair”: certain “lesser” teams would be better at 3-on-3 than “better” teams that ordinary rely on defense.

    I prefer the sudden-death playoff format and wish every game could be decided in that way. But they can’t. The shoot-out is the practical way to make sure that games end in a predicable and timely fashion – because hockey is a contact sport with a very long season. A goalie could stone a team 3-on-3?

    The whole shoot-out “purist” argument is primarily a way people use to show that they are a “real” hockey fan as opposed to those – gasp – “bandwagon” fans that find the shootout exciting – or just recognize it as part of the game (because, you know, it is and has been for a long time). I’m tired of hearing about it – and tired of the endless string of garbage alternatives people have presented just because – zomg – we must get rid of this stain on the game! Any bad idea is better!

    • tmoore4075 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      They’ve pretty much shot down the 3 points system. Why? Because it would eliminate some of the parity that they have late in the year when you have teams fighting to get in. The current system keeps teams bunched together.

      I would take 10 minutes of 4 on 4 just to give more time to see if a team can win it in OT. 3 on 3 is almost as gimmicky as the shootout but if this is will help cut down on some shootouts I’m ok with it.

    • shoobiedoobin - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      “I fail to see how 3-on-3 is any more “pure” than a shoot-out.”

      Then you have a problem. But reading the rest of your reply proves that even further. Right idea, wrong application. It’s not people concerned with appearance who hate the shoot-out, it’s simply just intelligent fans who realize a skills competition mini-game, vs actual players playing hockey against each other with a full rule set. If two teams both get matching minors twice, do you whine? I doubt it.

      The shoot-out makes as much sense as having a hardest shot competition. This whole argument is just common sense. But as is usual with internet sports fans, arguing is more fun than just blandly agreeing, so we get people arguing something that shouldn’t even be up for debate.

      • bmscalise - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        No – you think it’s “common sense” because you believe it. I don’t. It’s your opinion – fine – not common sense.

        When have you ever seen 3 on 3 hockey during a game? Never. (Incidentally, you won’t play 3-on-3 hockey with 2 sets of coincidental penalties, as you implied. You’d play 4-on-4 with 4 guys in the box.)

        And what happens if a penalty gets called in 3-on-3 OT. 3-on-2? After you are down to 3-on-2, will you be able to commit any infraction you want for all intents and purposes, so it won’t just be one guy and a goalie? It seems unlikely that the penalty could be delayed, since it would only be 2-3 min of 3-on-3 anyway.

        You aren’t playing with a “full set of rules” because these are conditions that don’t exist in a normal game of hockey – any more than a shootout.

      • shoobiedoobin - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        ^3 on 3 can happen, forget that coincidental minors thing. If a penalty gets called, why do you necessarily lose a guy? Why not gain one? It’s solely about advantage and disadvantage. And you must pay for breaking a rule. And 4 on 3 is a pretty good way to do it.

        Yes 3 on 3 is a condition that exists in hockey. Just not when the infractions occur simultaneously. So get that outta your head. Like I said below, we see slap shots much more than breakaways or 3 on 3 so let’s just have a hardest shooter competition to determine the winner.

    • sunderlanding - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      Because it’s a team sport, and there is nothing team about a skills competition.

      • hawkeedawg - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:52 AM

        We have 3 on 3 leagues here in Canada and they are very entertaining, high scoring games. Penalties are a penalty shot.

        Its not that bad.

    • ibieiniid - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      i thumbs-downed strictly because “ROW wins” is redundant. just like “ATM machine” and “PIN number.”

  3. DTF31 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    10 minute 4on4.

    When was the last time you even saw 3on3 in a game? That’s as gimmicky as the shootout.

    • shoobiedoobin - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      No it isn’t. I swear if you can’t see this, just hit back and leave and let the smart people do the thinking for you.

      • ibieiniid - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        that’s a very valid point you didn’t make.

      • shoobiedoobin - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        It’s true. I don’t care if you don’t like it.

      • dueman - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:36 PM

        shoobiedoobin – Why are you insulting, and arguing with someone(DTF31), that is arguing the same point as you?

  4. Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    I wish they’d just stop tinkering with the rules EVERY year. They’ve slowly butchers the rule book since Bettman came to the NHL. Constantly tinkering with the rules every year. It’s hardly the same game anymore.

    But the system they have now is just lame. There’s nothing I hate more than the loser point. When the league still counted ties, there was no point if you lost in OT. There was a winner and a loser. That’s it.

    The system now rewards losers. I hate how any game that is tied with 5 minutes to go, both teams just stop trying. They coast into OT to make sure they get that ‘insurance’ point. It makes for some VERY boring hockey. If it’s a tie teams should be working their butts off trying for a win.

    One system I’ve read, I wish the NHL would consider is this:
    Win in regulation = 3 points
    Win in OT = 2 points
    Win in Shootout = 1 point
    Lose = 0 points.
    It would force teams to TRY when the game is tied. For teams who need points to make/keep playoff position, they would TRY when there’s 5 minutes left in the 3rd and the game is tied. They wouldn’t coast into OT fishing for some insurance. They work harder to get the most points they can.

  5. suckit619 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Dead Wings haven’t won anything in a few years and now they’re trying to change the rules? Deeetroit SUCKS

    • shoobiedoobin - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      Awww jealous of success little fella?

  6. hockeydon10 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    I honestly see far more breakaway shots — one shooter vs the goalie — than I do 3-on-3 situations. In fact, I don’t think you can actually have 3-on-3 during a game at all.

    Regardless of how one feels about the shootout — I’m mostly ambivalent toward it — this means shootout does have more in common with the game than 3-on-3.

    • shoobiedoobin - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I see a lot of slap shots too but that doesn’t mean after 5 minutes of OT we should line up Chara at the blue line to see if he can slap one past the goalie.

    • sunderlanding - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      A breakaway is different than a shootout.

      • hockeydon10 - Sep 11, 2013 at 6:50 AM

        Yeah, one skater is going in on the goalie alone with the defense chasing him.

        3-on-3 is different than hockey altogether.

  7. JB (the original) - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    I guess I like the 4 on 4 as a happy medium. That said, if we must keep the shoot-out I wouldn’t mind seeing some sort of moving ‘control’ line imaged onto the ice. Idea being, with first push-off of the shooter, the line begins moving at some determined pace towards the goal with the shooter needing to keep the puck in front of the line at all times (or it counts as a “missed” shot). I guess I feel like the advantage is heavily slanted tot he shooters int he shoot-out, and I think this would help even it out somewhat. The moving line would force guys to keep up some sort of pace/timing to shoot instead of ‘creeping’ in, barely moving forward. Yeah, tweaky, but I think it would be fairer.

  8. nananatman - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    4 on 4 is bad enough, how about Goalie on Goalie shoot-outs?

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 10, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      LOL, or… 0-on-0… just a puck and two empty nets. May the best team win.

  9. psp92630 - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    The easiest way to settle tie games? Keep the 4v4 for 10 minutes – if the game is tied after 10 min of OT, both teams lose. Neither team gets a point. Instead of being afraid to lose the OT point, teams would have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going all-out

    • avfanforlife - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:46 PM

      Agree about the 4 on 4 for 10 minutes. But then I think after the OT is over, give a point to each, then shootout for the extra point. 10 mins of OT would decide it in most games – 5 mins is over to quickly.

  10. steverolley - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:19 PM


    the problem with every tie game in the regular season is that at the start or the 3rd period teams start playing for “the single point”. It sickens me to see teams playing to tie because they get rewarded for it.

    If shoot outs were all or nothing you would see coaches doing anything possible to avoid them.

  11. bleedingteal4life - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    I really enjoy the shot outs albeit they can be horribly stressful at times. I agree it isn’t fair to base the outcome of an entire game on 3 guys shots over a few seconds each, however that’s what makes it so interesting.

  12. ztschnit - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    At least meet in the middle. If a team loses in the shootout, do they deserve 1 point? Yeah I suppose. If a team loses in OT, do they really deserve a point? I don’t think so. The NHL is very division-based this year, it would definitely be better for teams to win in the actual game, not the skills contest!

    • Lupy Nazty Philthy - Sep 10, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      Loser should get 0 no matter what. Shouldn’t be a reward for losing.

  13. jacketsfan7 - Sep 10, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    How about 2on2 overtime periods so if someone takes a penalty you can pull the goalie and have a 3on1

  14. hockeyflow33 - Sep 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    Will they be playing length-wise in one zone with the nets on the face-off circles?

    When did the league become a version of sumer pick-up hockey?

  15. avfanforlife - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    3 0n 3 is too gimmicky… (Shootout is too, but lots of fans like it, and I even enjoy it when it goes into extra rounds like 6 – 7- etc…)

    Solution is simple: Just go 4 on 4 for a total 10 minutes, THEN give both teams a point before the shootout determines the winner/extra point. No points given until after shootout is over.
    HATE TIES though… anything is better than a game ending in a tie.

    • avfanforlife - Sep 10, 2013 at 8:42 PM

      oops – I meant no points given until after the OT is over… then shootout for the extra point. Giving a point after regulation is lame in my opinion. (unless it goes to my team of course!)

  16. girouxed - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    What exactly is wrong with shootouts? Is it because it eliminates the “team” part of winning the game? Well both teams have to play well to get to a shootout in the first place

  17. nyrnashty - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    3-3 is a terrible idea. First it’s just a waste of time. Players will just sit back since there’s only 3 of them. Why would I join the rush if the other team could counter and potentially start a 3-1 the other way? 2nd, what happens if there are penalties during 3-3 play? Does it become 3-2 3-1 where does it stop? Maybe we could get a thrilling game of 1-1 OT if enough penalties are taken. I would rather see the shoot out then this idea. At least the shoot out allows players like Datayuk excite every fan base in the game when he’s about to take his shot. I can’t imagine a coach letting his players join in on a rush with the consequences being so high, especially if his team has better shooters in the shoot out. Plus I’m trying to catch that 10pm train out of the city just like the other thousands of people without having to miss the end of the game.

  18. nyrnashty - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:52 PM

    I think the NHL is trying to drive away the hard core fans just to pick up a few noob corporate ones that don’t know a thing about hockey in the 1st place. We’ll have soccer nets as goals in 5 years from if this keeps up with 100-99 games. Maybe the off season should be shorter, so people can’t just sit around as long during the summer to find ways to ruin the game. 3-3 GTFO!!!!!!!

  19. boukengreen - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:44 AM

    What you do if the penalty is called doing a three on three session is That they PowerPlay team goes to four on three until the penalty expires then you go to four on four until the next whistle then go back to three on three That is how we do it in the SPHL

    • arlingtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:17 AM

      My goodness I’m sick of all the gimmicks. I don’t consider 3-3 real hockey, but then again I can’t stand 4-4 overtime either. And the shootout?!?! Don’t get me started…the ultimate gimmick that is NOT hockey, just a skills competition.

      And finally, the extra losers point is a joke and should be abandoned.

      I know I’m in the minority here, and I have no problem with ties, but what I would prefer is simple and reinstates the tie.

      10 minute overtime for a decision. 2 points to the winner, 0 points to the loser, 1 point each if no team scores.

      I’m also resigned to the fact that the shootout isn’t going anywhere…but I’ll never be happy about it.

  20. canadianguest - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:40 AM

    The league went from not wanting endless overtimes to a short time limit fix, and then a Shootout. The shootout is a bit of a let down for me, others may disagree, I’m just saying what it is for me.

    I don’t mind the 4v4, but let them skate for 10 minutes, then 3v3 for 10 minutes. This may give the players more time between shifts after a long game, depending on how short the bench becomes. After the 3v3, then just call it a tie. Hockey has always had ties.

  21. bendora - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    For those confused about why the shootout is an issue for some fans… some teams are built around quality defensive play, so having a sharp shooter on the team is less of a concern. The shootout gives an advantage to teams with elite goalies or top end trick shot artists and takes away from the actual team game.
    I think the 3 on 3 is gimmicky, but it’s better than a shootout. I’d prefer that the whole season is run like the playoffs.

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