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An Easy Fix to Make Regular Season OT More Fun and More Decisive


NHL 3-on-3 overtime started in the 2015-16 season. Previously it had been 4-on-4, initially with no shootout in the event no winner was determined in overtime. Trying to minimize shootouts, rule tweaks like ROW vs. Wins as a tie breaker were put in place to incent teams to "go for it" rather than just allow games to go to shootouts.

Originally non-stop action, the 3-on-3 OT’s have devolved over the past few years as coaching strategies have adapted. The most significant strategy, utilized by virtually every team now, is to do everything to maximize puck possession. "The opponent can’t score when we have the puck" is the current mantra. With the advent of 3-on-3, this opens the door for the boringest of tactics: retreating from the offensive zone even at times when you have clearly established puck possession in your offensive zone, regrouping in the neutral or even defensive zone, then re-entering the offensive zone again. If no clear goal scoring opportunities are immediately present…retreat and try it again. Due to the amount of open ice with 3-on-3 play, regaining the offensive zone is typically easy and certainly much, much easier than in 5-on-5 play. With one of the aforementioned "tweaks" being the "long line change" in OT, retreating also offers the significant benefit of allowing completion of a line change while still retaining possession of the puck.

So, in a nutshell, the issue is that teams opt to use a boring, skilless tactic of retreating from the offensive zone rather than focusing on skillful playmaking to try to score. Historically, the NHL was faced with this same general issue almost a century ago. At that time, the NHL instituted the icing rule to incentivize teams to attempt to make skillful plays to gain the offensive zone rather than just flipping the puck all the way down the ice into their offensive zone. Now, it’s the same issue just in reverse with teams sometimes passing the puck all the way back to their own goaltender to allow for "regrouping" and sometimes an overtime line change.

Perhaps the solution to this present OT predicament is the same, though: Once a team has entered the offensive zone with the puck, if they pass, shoot, or skate the puck backward across the center line towards their own goal, then "reverse icing" will be called with the resultant faceoff in their defensive zone and only the opposing team being given the opportunity to make a line change. This would serve to incent teams to stop retreating and, rather, concentrate on creating skillful scoring chances…and a better, more decisive, more fan-friendly product would result.

This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by <em>Broad Street Hockey</em>.