Open plan: Why 3 on 3 OT in NHL works

02/20/16 by Matthew S. Vandriak

OK, I admit I was wrong. When the NHL announced they had changed the overtime format from 4 on 4 this season to 3 on 3, I was skeptical. Alright, I wasn't just skeptical, I thought it was an awful idea. How could taking a game that's played with 5 skaters per side in regulation and changing it to 3 skaters per side be a good way to decide the outcome of a game? That was my thinking.
The NHL's thinking was that something needed to change. The shootout had grown stale. 4 on 4 overtime was being played to too many stalemates that led to shootouts. How could you get the excitement back that the shootout originally created but decide a hockey game without penalty shots? Well after experimenting with it in the AHL, the NHL decided the 3 on 3 OT format was the way to go.
As a longtime hockey fan, and fan who thought the 4 on 4 overtime format wasn't very good, switching to the 3 on 3 approach certainly didn't appeal to me. It had the exact opposite effect on me. Changing the game to a video game format was definitely not the answer, or so I thought. But then I actually got to see 3 on 3 overtime. And it was exciting!

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Going 3 on 3 has so much open ice. It's one rush after another. Back and forth play. Goalies probably aren't fans of it because of the golden scoring chances the extra ice creates, but the goaltending play is just as fun to watch. Sparkling saves off of the great scoring chances just adds to the excitement. And it's accomplished what the NHL had hoped it would as's reduced the number of shootouts and decided more game in the overtime format.
Look, I still don't like the fact the NHL is the only major sport that alters the format of it's game when it comes to overtime. You don't see the NFL go to 8 on 8 when a game goes to overtime. You don't see the shortstop removed for extra innings in MLB. And I don't like the fact that the NHL awards points to each team for being tied after regulation. But whether I want to admit it or not, I was wrong about 3 on 3 overtime. It's accomplished one thing that the NHL had been, and to a point still is, lacking. Excitement.
And whether you're an old school fan who has the same feelings about altering OT like I do, or if you're newer fan who loved the shootout. In this case, change has been made. And that change has been good. 3 on 3 overtime is exciting hockey.

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