Bull shootout/The Red Line
It didn’t take a lot of effort to find the similarity between the 2-2 tie Bemidji State and Michigan Tech skated to on Friday night and the 2-2 tie Bemidji State and Michigan Tech skated to Saturday night.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that the rare “Double Draw” is less than satisfying to the viewing public.
Heck, after Saturday’s game, I tweeted, “This series is as good an argument for shootouts as I’ve seen.” However, just because it’s a good argument doesn’t mean it’s a convincing one.
The first hockey shootout I can remember came at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, when Peter Forsberg scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden against Canada. It ended up on a Swedish postage stamp. I wish I could say this was the worst thing he perpetrated on hockey, but he went on and so did the shootout.
After the black mark that was the 2004-05 NHL lockout, what were the spoonfuls of sugar that made the medicine go down? Shootouts!
Eventually, they leeched their way into college hockey via the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, though they still don’t count for anything beyond league standings (Hey, the NCAA got something right!).
If I could blame the shootout for western college hockey realignment, I would. Lord knows I’d get fewer letters from shootout aficianados than I did from North Dakota last year. Then again, let’s just say it surprised me exactly zero percent to see the National Collegiate Hockey Conference adopt them.
The WCHA has never used the shootout. Earlier this season, Michigan Tech and Minnesota Duluth did one just for giggles at the end of a non-conference game in October. Last night, Michigan and Ferris State staged a meaningless one at Yost Ice Arena for the Fox Sports Detroit television cameras. There was even a video review on one play, setting a new record for meaninglessness.
Here’s the thing about the shootout: I’ve never met a ‘hockey person’ who actually liked them more than just ending in a tie or playing more overtime.
The shootout is essentially institutionalized showing-off. It is an apology from the NHL for being unable to provide you, the fan, with a satisfying resolution after 2 1/2 hours of competition.
Save for a penalty shot, a once-in-a-season occurrence, there is no other game situation that remotely resembles a shootout. Where is the love for solid stay-at-home defensive play? For the kids without the ‘saucy mitts?’
Perhaps if we let backcheckers chase the shooter from the blue line and run him over if he comes in at walking tempo again it might have a patina of legitimacy.
Let’s go full WWE with this and give the goaltender two sticks or a 39 1/2-foot pole (obligatory Christmas reference). Or perhaps make shootouts worth 10 points or force the losing team’s coach to quit or take off a piece of clothing every time the opposing team scores.
In a way, the shootout is a window into what is wrong with 21st century sports: opting to emphasize entertainment value over competitive equality instead of letting competitive equality provide entertainment. That’s all right for Jussi Jokinen and Michal Handzus, but me, I prefer nuance, and not just because the Red Wings are absolutely horrendous at shootouts. Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe drew pretty well back in their day and the NHL didn’t even play overtime in the regular season until 1983.
I think there is a certain art to writing a game story without the benefit of a winner and a loser. I’ve only had the opportunity to do it a few times, but it’s a situation I remember (in January, a Tech hockey game against Bemidji State. Go figure.)
So this weekend, the Huskies will face Bowling Green and they may win. They may lose. They may even tie. Again. And if you have a problem with that, well, I hope you at least enjoyed the commercials on the video scoreboard.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.