Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

Hockey talk.

Well, the Islanders are 3-4 so far, including a win over the Rangers and getting out of the first game of the year against Pittsburgh without any reflashing of the tensions from last February. And there seem to be good vibes coming from Big Red country, especially concerning the newcomers, ahead of Cornell's official opener on Saturday.

But I really want to respond to a Bill Simmons column from last Wednesday. The Sports Guy is going stir-crazy over the NBA lockout. Fortunately for the people of Los Angeles, he has chosen to acquire L. A. Kings season tickets in lieu of going postal. Most of the column isn't actually about hockey; it focuses instead on the intractability between the NBA and its players, including a "limited intellectual capital" comment about the players that got some people riled up. Simmons lays out the points in favor of the NHL in the second paragraph. One of those points is "best regular-season in-game wrinkle (the shootout)." I maintain the staunch dissent from that spectacle that I expressed six years ago. Chris Botta, now blogging for The New York Times, summed it up in a single Tweet two weeks ago: the Islanders demolished Tampa Bay from start to finish, and the Devils were a smidge better in the skills competition - and both teams got the same number of standings points. Unfortunately, I think the shootout's ship of state has sailed, so if it's to be kept, I propose three modifications:
  1. Five shooters per side. This is the standard in international play, as well as in soccer. It also lessens the randomness of the whole thing, akin to the difference between a best-of-seven series and a best-of-five.
  2. Eliminate the five-minute overtime. If the fans really do desire the shootout, why not give them more of it? Right now, the overtime serves very little purpose, as there's no difference between a goal scored in that frame and a win in the shootout. And it's gimmicky enough in its own right, having kept the four-on-four format adopted in 1999.
  3. Award a third point for a regulation win. This would address Botta's lament, rewarding teams that prevail in the actual hockey portion of the contest. It would also satisfy statistically inclined people (myself among them) who gripe that every NHL game currently does not have the same overall effect in the standings (games settled in sixty minutes award two points, while all others award three).
Simmons also noted that hockey is the "sport with the best in-game format (long period, long break, long period, long break, long period, go home)." I didn't think much of this until Friday, when I read a College Hockey News column concerning timeouts. Or to be more precise with respect to hockey, the timeout. There's only one per team per game, and you don't get extras in overtime. The timeout rules are part and parcel of the format. By keeping coach-desired stoppages in play to a minimum, they contribute to the flow of the game that's integral to what Simmons is praising. Football needs the three timeouts per half; they add drama to games by preventing a team from running out the clock in some cases. That's also true to an extent in basketball; the timeouts, in combination with the intentional fouling by a trailing team, make that sport difficult for me to enjoy. And in the hockey playoffs, the dynamic gets even more interesting, because you still have only the one timeout, and the television timeouts go away - the compression of the game turns it into even more of a contest of will.*

Finally, Simmons wants to know "How did Rocco's Old-School Tattoo Balm decide to sponsor the L.A. Kings ice girls?" He's a well-known fan of skin art on NBA players, even going so far as to advocate for a special game program that explains the origin of each of their tattoos. In that vein, the next time The Sports Guy finds himself in the New York metropolitan area, I invite him to make a detour to Tattoo Lou's! The official tattoo shop of the New York Islanders! Four convenient locations throughout Nassau and Suffolk!

* Usually, that is. There are plenty of playoff overtimes that are decided on random chance, like Game 5 of last year's Western Conference Final.
Tags: bill simmons, hockey, sports

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