By: Adam Gretz
One of the ideas that was tested at the NHL Research and Development camp earlier this summer was three-on-three overtime, which could potentially help cut down on the number of shootouts in the NHL.
The idea, which comes from Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, would feature four minutes of four-on-four hockey, and if no goal is scored, the two teams would switch sides and play three minutes of three-on-three hockey. If the tie still isn't broken after all of that, the two teams would then go on to a shootout.
This format woud not only potentially add two minutes to the overtime period (the current NHL overtime period is five minutes, all of which are played at four-on-four, assuming there are no penalties) but it would also create more space on the ice for a significant portion of it by taking four players out of the game for the three-on-three portion. Given the additional time, as well as the extra space on the ice, it would be reasonable to expect more games be decided before a shootout would be required.
During the Traverse City prospect tournament on Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers prospects were tied at the end of regulation, and used a variation of this overtime format (they actually played four minutes of three-on-three). The Hurricanes would win the game in the three-on-three portion, 4-3, thanks to a breakaway goal from Justin Shugg, the team's fourth-round pick in 2010 after a huge season with the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
I still like the three-on-three overtime proposal, mainly because I think the extra open ice and the level of talent in the NHL would create quite a few exciting moments, probably filled with up-and-down action and odd-man rushes.
Is it another gimmick? Sure it is, and it no doubt has its share of critics from hockey traditionalists that don't want to see any sort of radical change to the way the game has been played for the past 70-plus years. But it's not quite on the level of the shootout, which is also loathed by many hockey fans since it determines a winner and loser with a skills competition after 65 minutes (regulation and overtime) of hockey. At least with the three-on-three the game is still being decided with the two teams actually playing against one another.