Overtime is a common concept in the world of sports. The idea behind it is that after a set number of hours (typically agreed upon in advance by the two parties) work has stopped and play resumes. Typically, that means the players are given some time off and can come back and continue playing at a later date. Overtime has been used for centuries and is considered one of the most pivotal developments in sports. It allowed for the growth of professional sports and created more opportunities for fans to get involved in the action.
How Does Overtime Work In Nhl Hockey?
Overtime is a big deal in the National Hockey League. The very existence of the concept of extra time after regular time in hockey is due to the work of one man: Henry William “Hap” James. One of the greatest hockey minds of all time, James introduced the idea of the extra 3-minutes-per-period in January 1917. The league agreed to experiment with it that year and gave the head of each team 7 years to figure out the best timing for its use.
The NHL grew incredibly fast after adopting overtime. From an initial seven teams in 1917, the league ballooned to 30 teams in 1947. Today, with 50 teams, over 24 games per week, and an entire offseason to work through, it is no surprise that the NHL is the most popular professional sports league in North America.
The Joys Of Overtime
Overtime allows for a ton of exciting moments. The idea is that after a set number of hours of play (typically agreed upon by the two teams), play stops and a brief period of rest/recreation follows. This can range from a few stoppage-free minutes to a full break and a chance for the hockey clubs to work through their frustrations.
The break allows players, coaches, and fans to wind down from a long night of hockey and gives the competing teams a chance to regroup and strategize for the next period. This break also gives managers and the officials a chance to get a drink, visit with friends, or go for a walk. During the break, coaches can often be seen huddled around a table, discussing game strategy or going over the plays they’ll need for their next period.
While many people enjoy the break that comes with overtime, there is also plenty of evidence that it can lead to more penalties being called and longer games overall. This is especially evident in shootouts, where the game continues well into the extra period. There are ways to fix this, like having shootouts in the third period of regulation, but for now it remains one of the unique aspects of hockey that everyone seems to love.
Getting Paid For Overtime
The NHL doesn’t just utilize overtime to create more exciting games. It has also tried to maximize the potential of the concept by creating systems where the players can actually get paid for it. There are several different methods the league uses to try to make the most of it, with the most well-known being the shootout.
The shootout is a method of awarding points to determine the winner of a hockey game in which no score is attained. Instead of heading to overtime, the teams would go through a series of rounds, each one worth one point. The first team to score three points wins the game. In reality, shootouts were never supposed to be a part of hockey; James had initially intended for the extra 3 minutes to just be an extra period of play. The system was changed in the 1960s in an effort to make the game more exciting. The intention was to have a final period in which a single goal could either win or lose the game. As a result of this alteration, shootouts were born.
While shootouts are one of the biggest draws for fans and can lead to some memorable games, they are also one of the things that can make an overtime period longer. For example, if the two teams are tied after three periods of regulation, the game will continue into a shootout. If the teams are still tied in the shootout, it could go on for quite some time. Naturally, this creates the possibility of more penalties being called since there is more time for tempers to flare.
Another issue that comes with extra time is the short-handed problems that can crop up. If the teams are still tied after regulation and the shootout fails to break the deadlock, coaches might be forced to make a substitution if they are unable to handle the puck for long periods while dealing with a crowded defense.
In response to this, the NHL has created some very interesting methods for handling short-handed situations. For instance, before the start of the 2014-15 season, the league changed its rule regarding substitutions. Up until that point, a team could pull a defenseman in for a forward or vice versa but could not have a player of a different position than their jersey would suggest. The new policy allowed for this, so that even if a defenseman is pulled for a forward, the latter can still handle the puck while the former provides support behind the play.
Similarly, there is the Power Play, a method of breaking even in situations where one team has an advantage. Essentially, the Power Play allows a team to score a goal while the other team enjoys a 5-on-4 situation. Naturally, this can lead to some crazy moments.
These methods might make overtime more exciting but also make it more complicated for coaches and players. Shootouts are often seen as the golden standard of determining a winner in a game that is decided by a single event. However, the more time that passes and the more games that are played, the more it becomes apparent how flawed this approach can be.
To this point, not all NHL teams have agreed to use these methods or even have understood their significance. For instance, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t adopt the Power Play until the middle of the 1997-98 season and have only used shootouts for the outcome of games since then. Similarly, the Colorado Avalanche didn’t start playing with the 3-on-3 format until the 2005-06 season and have only used shootouts since then.
Even still, overtime is widely used throughout the league. It wasn’t meant to replace the classic single-elimination tournament structure that is found in many sports. Rather, it was designed to provide for more exciting games once the play during the regular period has ceased. Ultimately, the joy that comes with increased productivity and the challenge of figuring out the right timing for its use are what make overtime in the NHL so worthwhile.