Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hands Off, Betttman, et al

While it's not exactly Washington-sports-related, DCO nevertheless would like to commend Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel for his excellent column today on the NHL playoffs. To summarize: he says don't mess with the overtime. Just because NBC broke away pre-overtime from the Sabres-Senators game in favor of the thrilling Preakness pre-race special, that doesn't mean it's time to start considering again ill-begotten "solutions" to the playoff overtime "problem". Would NBC have been more likely to stick with the game if the teams started overtime playing 4-on-4, or if they went to a shootout after an overtime or two? Doubtful. The lure of that pony money would still be there.

Four-on-four overtime is fine for the regular season. We can even grudgingly accept shootouts instead of hard-fought ties. But back off when it comes to the playoffs, even if the games stretch into the morning hours (which, as Wetzel points out, they don't do as often as some would have us believe). As a hockey fan and a Caps fan, and as a survivor of April 24, 1996, I truly hope Commissioner Gary Bettman does not continue to desperately grasp for the mass-media respect that hockey is never going to get by implementing such rules. Even though Petr Nedved ruined a perfectly mesmerizing game of hockey 11 years ago by scoring late in the fourth overtime, I would rather have seen the game as I had rather than seen it decided by the three best shooters on each team plus the goalies.

It's true what Wetzel wrote: every rush up the ice that night by the Penguins filled the arena (at least the portions not occupied by Pittsburgh fans) with tension, and every possession by the Caps brought the hope that it would be over (for the better) in a matter of seconds. Double those feelings on a power play for either side. That's a few dozen swings in emotion over the course of a 20-minute period. Exhausting to watch, and even more so to play? That's the game.

So thanks, Dan, for refuting Kara Yorio's overtime defeatist column from last month. One of her arguments actually, in retrospect, shows the foolishness of ever allowing the shootout to appear in the NHL, under the slippery slope category: "If the shootout is a good enough way to decide how teams get into the playoffs, then it should be a good enough way to decide who wins the games once they're there." We would argue: if it's a mediocre-to-bad idea in the regular season, it's an absolutely dreadful idea in the post-season.

No comments: