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Nightmare scenarios

The NHL season is long and stressful for everyone involved, so let’s take a break from that and think about some crazy nightmare scenario that I hope never happens:

Imagine you’re the fan of an arbitrary hockey team…let’s say the New York Rangers — nay! You’re a player of the New York Rangers. After a long, grueling season where your team found itself under the microscope time after time, your team is down to its last two games. You’re neck and neck with a division rival (oh, let’s say the Philadelphia Flyers…just for argument’s sake, of course) for that final playoff spot. Both of your games are against that division rival. You’ve worked your ass off to get this close, made a dramatic run in the past few weeks, and you’re not about to let a bunch of scumbags take this opportunity away from you.

You need to win both to make it. You win the first of the home-and-home in your own arena in a close match. But there’s still game #82. And game #82 is a hard-fought one. It might as well be Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Everything is on the line: your pride, your fans’ pride, a chance to embarrass and eliminate a hated rival, and most importantly, a chance to make a run for Lord Stanley’s glory; the winner of the game advances to the playoffs, while the losers go home crying, or pursue an internship with a fashion magazine (again, it’s all hypothetical). There must be a victor, but the game is too epic to end in regulation; in fact, it’s too epic to end in overtime.

Wait, what? Anyway, someone must win. And what better way to decide whose season is over and who advances than a…SHOOTOUT!!!

It’s all the rage! One on one with the goalie! Six shooters! Two guys who try to stop the black circle! One puck! ZERO DISAPPOINTMENT!!! You don’t even have to understand the sport or any of the rules, because this event doesn’t factor any of that in! Yet this one event, that will presumably take just a few minutes, will surely determine our champions!

And what do we have here? It’s Olli Jokinen! Yes, this guy! The shootout and the game — nay, the entire SEASON — is on the line, and it comes down to this gentleman. If he scores, we move on to a bonus round! If not, his team’s season is over…after all they’ve fought for. Here he comes, skating in on some schmuck…Boo-shay? His name is Boo-shay? OK, whatever, and OH he’s stopped! Game over! Season over for one team! Wasn’t that fun, folks? Tune in next year for some Matt Cooke shenanigans!

Of course, that wasn’t a hypothetical nightmare I just made up, it actually happened. Even the Vogue magazine part.

The shootout has worn out its welcome. It was fun to watch for a year or two, and it may have drawn some positive attention to the sport, but the gimmick is done. Trash it. What’s wrong with ties? Or extended OT? A hockey game should not end in a skills competition. Teams’ seasons should not end short because they weren’t good enough on breakaways. It’s such a small portion of the game that determines such a large portion of the standings. It’s a silly way to determine winners, and losers, and it can happen in each of the 82 regular season games.

And that fact was made even more clear two nights ago by mega-troll Danny Briere (the same mega-troll that played an evil part in the previously-mentioned shootout).

Yes, that actually happened, and yes, it counted. And yes, the senior VP of hockey operations condoned it.

What’s that, you say? How could anyone in the league, especially that high up on the Bettman ladder, think it’s fine for a player to, on a shootout attempt, come to a complete stop in front of the net, snow shower the goalie while the masked man flops to make what appears to be an angle-removing play, and then simply skate around the frozen goalie and put the puck in the empty net…and be OK with that type of play having the potential to essentially determine who earns the extra point in the standings (fortunately, the Devils beat the Flyers in the shootout that night)?

Here’s what Mike Murphy, senior VP of hockey operations, had to say on CISCO NHL Live about the incident.

“Can the player come to a complete stop?”

“Absolutely…the puck cannot come to a complete stop. The player can stop as long as the puck is continuing to be dribbled or stickhandled or moved from side-to-side, and that’s the case with Briere last night.”

Let’s review:

-Player movement doesn’t matter (he can stop or even skate backwards).

-As long as the puck is moving, and not heading backwards, play continues. I guess moves where the puck actually does head in the opposite direction, like a toe-drag, still count.

-Oh, and there’s a specific rule that trashes everything the second rule stands for, allowing spin-o-rama type plays to be perfectly legal, even though the puck travels backwards about three feet.

So what do we have? According to the current rules, it is totally legal for a player to stop in front of the net as long as he continues to stickhandle from “side-to-side”. He can stand there as much as he likes…a quick second for a quick move like Briere used, or for 27 hours. There’s no limit, no rule disallowing it.

So, OK, that’s the current rule, so while what Briere did was technically legal (apparently), the rule needs to be amended, right?

Wrong, according to Murphy.

“Well, I think [if] you add too many words, you confuse the issue.”

Yeah, screw words! Screw reading! It’s too confusing. We can’t expect players to be able to skate on ice, hold a hockey stick, understand icing, AND learn a new amendment to the shootout, all at the same time! I mean, we just added the shootout a few years ago, I’m sure players are still adjusting to all the new updates. And don’t even get me started about the trapezoid! Can you touch the puck there, can you skate in that area, I mean what’s the deal???

Expect players to replicate Briere’s strategy and stop in front of the net until they have a sure goal. Expect seasons to be decided by a gimmick that gets more ridiculous every month, and by players as ridiculous as Olli Jokinen (bonus Photoshops; of course it’s from HFboards). And don’t expect the rule to change anytime soon, because you heard it from the top: the rule doesn’t need to be changed.

Oh, and unfortunately, that nightmare scenario, too, is real.

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