The pace and excitement of 3-on-3 overtime isn’t just a thrill for hockey fans — NHL players love it, too.
An Associated Press/Canadian Press survey of NHLPA representatives from all 31 teams found that 97% of those polled enjoy the league’s current overtime format during the regular season. The survey also found there are other rules the players are less thrilled with, ranging from delay-of-game penalties to confusion about goalie interference.
For Arizona Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton, the worst rule in hockey is resolving a game with a shootout when overtime fails to produce a winner.
“I don’t really like the shootout,” he said. “I think you just play 3-on-3 and eventually someone will score.”
The survey found that 30 players like the 3-on-3 setup. Only Philadelphia defenseman Radko Gudas said he did not, preferring the previous 4-on-4 setup better. He and said having fewer players on the ice is too much like “summertime hockey.”
“You work your bag off 60 minutes 5-on-5 and then all of a sudden it’s 3-on-3, a speedier, faster guy pretty much wins,” he said. “I think 4-on-4 would be more hockey-like situations than 3-on-3.”
Still, his peers said they love it. Playing a five-minute 3-on-3 period provides a fair way to end the game while allowing fans to see some pure skill, Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares said.
“(It’s) exciting and you see the best players in the world with that type of time and space,” he said. “It goes to show it’s a good way to end games. There’s no perfect science to this. We want a winner, but we can’t play forever. It’s a great way to showcase the talent, the skill of the game.”
The pace can be tough for the guys on the ice, New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said.
“I hate it as a goalie, but I like it as a hockey fan,” he said. “I think it’s better than the shootout, for sure. And I know it’s not perfect, but it gets you a decision, it gets people excited, you see some amazing skill and the way the league is now, it’s a great showcase for what these guys can do.”
The NHL moved away from 4-on-4 overtime in the 2015-16 regular season in a bid to create more space on the ice, allow for more goals and reduce the number of games going to shootouts. In the postseason, overtime is in 20-minute, sudden-death periods at 5-on-5. There are no shootouts.
Dylan DeMelo of the Ottawa Senators loves 3-on-3, but said there is one tweak he’d like to make. The defenseman said he wants to see a rule that would stop players from taking the puck over center ice and then back again to regroup. He thinks that would make OT even more entertaining.
There are a number of other rules players would love to see changed, including 63.2 that stipulates a delay of game penalty when a puck is shot or batted over the glass.
“I don’t think it should be a penalty. I think it should be the same as an icing. Whistle, faceoff in your end, no ability to change,” said Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ian Cole, one of five players (16 who said the rule is the worst in hockey. “A penalty for a play that has a high chance to happen in a course of a game or a (penalty kill) or whatever, it seems a little drastic.”
For other players, the uncertainty around what constitutes goalie interference is particularly irritating. Three players (10 said the inconsistency was their least-favorite part of the NHL rule book.
“What is goaltender interference and what’s not?” said Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse. “Maybe having more of a clear line, but any time you talk about something within the game, things happen so fast out there that judgment calls and whatnot, they’re hard to make.”
According to the league, there are only two situations where goaltender interference should result in a disallowed goal: if an attacking player stops the goalie from being able to move freely within his crease or defend his goal, or an attacking player intentionally or deliberately makes contact with the goalie.
Some players say what counts as interference in one game might not be the same in the next.
On Friday, Flyers goalie Cam Talbot tweeted his dissatisfaction with how the rule was applied in the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins.
“Once again the NHL goalie interference review is flawed,” wrote Talbot, who was not part of the AP/CP survey. “Someone that’s played the game in the blue paint should be in the situation room. Games are being lost in the playoffs and it’s not right. #inconsistent.”
Three players (10 said what they most dislike is offside reviews. Nine others named other rules, including tripping being called alongside diving, and the ban on time outs being used when the puck is iced. Eleven players did not provide a specific answer.
“Rules are the rules. I just follow them,” said winger Anders Lee of the New York Islanders.