Thursday afternoon, the NCAA announced a change that college hockey fans had been anticipating for a while.
There had been talk about a standardized overtime rule that applied throughout the country, as conferences had begun to deviate in how they determined winners of games.
The move to standardization is good. But what the committee came up with isn’t.
Bucking the trend of the NHL, AHL, ECHL, OHL, WHL, QMJHL, BCHL, AJHL and USHL, the NCAA announced a move to a standardized 5-on-5 five minute overtime across all conferences during regular season play. There are a number of problems with the process of coming up with this decision (seriously, the NCHC is mad), but that shouldn’t overshadow how problematic the shift to 5-on-5 is.
- It doesn’t serve the NCAA’s purpose of preparing people for the NHL.
The NCAA, as a whole has solidified itself as a legitimate path to the NHL. Through the success of some college hockey alumni like Johnny Gaudreau, and the College Hockey Inc. initiative, the college hockey community has really pushed this part of the NCAA experience.
The issue with this in the context of the overtime debate is that there are no leagues at the NCAA’s peer level or higher up that still play 5-on-5 overtime. If the NCAA is serious about preparing its players for the league, it behooves the NCAA to emulate the league as much as possible. There is no league in North America that still has five minute 5-on-5 overtime.
2. 5-on-5 overtime is boring.
Picture this. Merrimack is playing at BC, and despite a ton of chances by the Eagles to take the lead, Merrimack is playing its best game since firing Mark Dennehy for stupid and petty reasons. The Warriors force overtime. Now imagine the Warriors’ game plan. Do they play more aggressively to try and get the two points, or do they play conservatively, not allowing BC a great scoring chance, to escape with the one point, or, more to the point, not risk leaving with no points?
It’s pretty obvious. You do the latter.
If anyone wants to disagree with me, watch any regular season overtime game over the past five years between uneven teams. Or, heck, between even teams. It is rare to find an overtime that is played with any flair or excitement, as teams are more than content just standing back and coming away with the one point tie.
This isn’t a criticism of Merrimack in this situation. (Well, the Dennehy firing was stupid and petty.) But the game plan in this hypo is legitimate. The current system rewards this kind of play. It’s only five minutes, so it’s not like a team has to survive a prolonged onslaught, and picking up one point is better than picking up no points.
The NCAA had the opportunity to remedy this problem (and it is a problem), but didn’t.
3. It Deprives People of 3-on-3 Overtime
Granted, we weren’t guaranteed of 3-on-3 if the league went in a different direction (though you have to imagine that would be the leader in the clubhouse in this discussion). That said, if the NCAA were to go in a 3-on-3 direction, it allows for the possibility of a 3-on-3 overtime. If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch a 3-on-3 overtime being played, please remedy that as soon as possible. It is one of the most exciting spectacles in regular season sports, and it is a delight to watch.
Attendance has been down across the country. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to introduce something exciting to the game that would also improve quality of play in the waning minutes of regulation.
Have a problem with it? Finish the job in regulation.