NHL Shootout Myth #47: Look! People are standing!

"You think the shootout is a bad way to end regular-season games? What if I told you the Olympic gold medal game could be decided that way? Because that's the truth. What an ugly thought that is. But as for NHL regular-season games, I don't mind it, my friend. Walk into an NHL rink during a shootout and tell me how many people are actually sitting down."

>>Pierre LeBrun, espn.com

The most tired, circular and evasive justification for the shootout there is.

 

You like the shootout? Fine. We can agree to disagree on taste. If you think a breakaway drill -- that takes place at half of game speed, mind you, without even the threat of a backchecker to make the shooter think twice -- is a great way to award half a win's worth of points after 65 minutes of hockey, fine. If you're just tickled pink by some dangler spinning in circles, crashing into the goalie, and then fist-pumping as if he just accomplished something, then we just like hockey for different reasons. If your tie-allergic self needs a "winner" (falsely) declared so bad that you must "settle" games this way, great. I lose the vote. I concede.

But stop using the "no one is sitting down!" argument as justification. Because people aren't sitting down during OT scoring chances either. You know why? The game is on the damned line.

You could have a bow-and-arrow accuracy contest at center ice, with the players in their skivvies. You could have a stuff-the-clown-in-the-VW contest at center ice. You could make the players shoot for the empty-net wrong-handed and blind-folded. For all of these, if the outcome determined which team just earned another point in the standings, people would not be sitting down.

So stop the fallacy. Stop pretending that the artificial value ascribed to the shootout justifies its existence. If the two points in the standings were determined by who won the 2nd period, guess what? Few people would show up for the 1st for the overpriced pizza and beer, and not a sober soul would still be around for the exhibition 3rd.

I get that some people like it (and flippancy aside, I don't mind that you do). I get that it's exciting. Hell, I'm standing during shootouts, too. But that doesn't mean I like it. And it doesn't mean I feel good about things afterward, win or loss.

So please: If it must stay (and surely it will), at least stop letting teams who resolve their games via shootout earn the same reward as teams who take care of business in 60 minutes of actual teamwork.

Retort, refute or hallelujah in comments.

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