When there’s something important on the line, a hockey game should never end in a shootout. Nothing enrages me more than an international hockey game that ends in one. It’s such a terrible way to lose. Athletes have trained their whole lives for a physical contest — going out in a shootout sucks! Sure, sure, you can say it’s because I’m Canadian and myself and my countrymen have had many a blow struck to our national pride as a result of this insane system. And yes, that may be true.
I still get angry thinking about the Canadian women’s Olympic team losing the gold medal in Pyeongchang as a result of a shootout with the United States. I still shed a tear over 2017’s IIHF World Junior gold medal shootout loss to the United States. Am I mad about shootouts, or am I mad about losses to the US? Shootouts, definitely shootouts.
I don’t mind shootouts so much in regular-season NHL games. The season is long and there’s plenty of time to bounce back from any type of loss. NHL players get paid to deal with disappointment — amateur athletes on the international stage, where national pride is on the line, do not.
Keep in mind, I am completely against the use of shootouts in NHL playoff games. Even high-paid professional hockey players work too hard to see their chances at hoisting the cup end that way.
Why do people like shootouts, anyway?
Proponents of shootouts cite player fatigue as a reason to end a game with one. Too bad — let them get tired. The winner of a game needs to be decided by intestinal fortitude. The players who have the passion and drive to keep going against all odds should be the winners. The players with the most heart, the most grit, and the most drive to push through exhaustion should emerge victorious — not the players who fancy-pantsed themselves down the ice unopposed and top-shelfed a goaltender at close range.
Proponents also say that shootouts are tense and exciting. They say they bring a sense of anticipation and thrill to the game. This may be true but in the worst possible way. It is tense. If Canada is in a shootout for the gold medal, I can be found with a blanket pulled over my head, my teeth gritted, spouting four-letter expletives and shouting “tell me when it’s over.” Sudden-death overtime game play is exciting for all the right reasons. It’s fast-paced and still provides plenty of anticipation. It also feels like a continuation of the game we all love.
I don’t even want my team to win that way…
I never like to see my country lose but I’d rather they lose in the fifth bout of overtime because they’re just too exhausted to keep going. At least then I can say they gave it everything they had. I feel cheated after a shootout. It doesn’t even seem fair to win that way. A 60-minute back-and-forth contest of skill and strength should never be relegated to a lineup of a few players staring down a goalie.
The NHL thankfully removed shootouts from the Stanley Cup playoffs — the IIHF and International Olympic Committee should do the same.