I have just watched another catastrophic nightmare ending to a critically important hockey game, as Canada and Sweden went to a shootout in the IIHF World Junior Championships. Tied 5 – 5 through overtime, these two undefeated teams then subjected themselves to a skills competition, essentially a slightly more dramatic coin-flip, to decide who won the game.
Yes, I’m from Canada. Yes, the Canadians lost. That’s immaterial. I have this same reaction even when I’m watching a game where the outcome is of zero consequence to me or the teams I cheer for. The utilization of the shootout in ANY hockey game is a tragedy, and an irrefutably heinous marriage of convenience and short attention spans.
The shootout must be banned from any and every league and tournament across the entire spectrum of hockey, from the tiniest Mite house league up to Juniors, College, minor leagues, as well as the NHL and Olympic Games. This must happen without further delay.
Why? One simple and indisputable reason: it is not hockey. Hockey is a game played with five skaters and a goaltender on the ice for each team, a ticking clock, referees, and a puck. Shootouts have few of those characteristics, and in removing the primary elements from the equation it no more resembles hockey than it does a tuna fish sandwich. When fans go to a HOCKEY GAME, they expect to see HOCKEY. They expect the team that they cheer for to play HOCKEY. And most importantly, they want the decision of which team wins or loses to be determined exclusively by the outcome of a game of HOCKEY. It is becoming evident that actions must be taken to ensure that this is the only way in which hockey games are played.
What can be done? Lots. Countries should lobby the IIHF and other international governing bodies to remove the shootout from any sanctioned tournaments. If they do not, they should refuse to send their teams. Fans can call their local NHL and AHL teams and complain, then put their money where their mouths are and make it clear to the teams that their refusal to attend games is exclusively because of the shootout. Colleges and universities can petition the NCAA to abandon the shootout, and fans can vote with their pocketbooks there as well. Finally, parents with kids in hockey leagues should get involved at that level and make it clear that the shootout is an unacceptable way of determining the outcome of a hockey game.
I’m dead serious about this. Football, baseball, basketball, none of them end tie games with a skills competition on any level, amateur or professional. Hockey is disgracing itself merely by considering the possibility of such nonsense; the fact that it has actually been implemented at nearly all levels of the sport — most of whom look to the NHL for guidance in implementing such things — is a loathsome and humiliating disgrace for the sport.
The shootout must go, immediately, from all levels of hockey. If the leagues won’t do it, and the teams don’t care, it’s up to the people who are passionate about the game of hockey to make their voices heard and bring this issue to the forefront.
The fact that the game of hockey is tarnishing its long and storied reputation with such an execrable and treasonous display speaks to the vile nature of those running the sport. They should be ashamed of themselves, and passionate traditionalists should strive at every turn to let them know that.