Thursday, July 19, 2007

NCAA looking at eliminating ties starting in 08-09

This is somewhat old news at this point, but the NCAA Men's and Women's Ice Hockey Rules Committee recently held their annual meetings and came away with several talking points. The one that has seemed to cause the most buzz revolves around ties during regular season games. According to this article on, "the committee's current intent to eliminate ties starting with the 2008-09 season."

The committee formulated three options to eliminate ties:

  1. Five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, then decide the game by using a shootout. This option had the most support among committee members.
  2. Five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, then 3-on-3 for five minutes of overtime, then a shootout.
  3. Each team would receive a 5-on-4 power play opportunity for two minutes. If Team A scores and then holds Team B from scoring, Team A wins. If Team B scores a shorthanded goal during Team A's opportunity, the game is over and Team B wins. If a penalty is called on the shorthanded team during the overtime opportunity, the power play opportunity is extended for the additional time. The procedure is used until one team scores.
The committee also looked at the three best options in terms of reducing ties:

  1. Five minute overtimes playing 4-on-4.
  2. 10 minute overtimes playing 4-on-4.
  3. Five minute overtimes playing 4-on-4 and then 3-on-3.

Andy Baggot discussed this issue with Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves in Baggot's blog Eaves is against the idea of making any of the changes outlined by the NCAA.

According to Baggot, one of the main issues Eaves has with the NCAA's ideas is that the power ratings (PairWise, which incorporates, among other things, RPI) used to seed and align the 16-team NCAA tournament would likely have to be adjusted.

"With the RPI, how do you put a quantitative variable on a shootout in a system that's based on wins, losses (and) ties? I think that's a huge hurdle to get over,'' Eaves told Baggot.

Eaves also points out that player developmental time is reduced because benches will be shortened ever more if a game gets into a 4-on-4 situation.

According to Eaves, he may be fighting an uphill battle, since he believes that most other NCAA coaches would be in favor of some sort of change.

"I think I'm an island onto myself,'' he said.

WCHA Blog's Take: I agree with Eaves and the points he makes. The NCAA tournament selection process no doubt needs work, and the committee tweaked its selection criteria yet again this year. However, adding something like a shootout would really muddy the waters. To a lesser extent I agree with Eaves that development time would be lost, but the overtime sessions being proposed are just five or 10 minutes, which isn't too much time in the grand scheme of things.

In terms of the NHL, the shootout is no doubt an exciting site. But is it really the best way to determine the winner of a game? Various arguments have been made about this idea, but the one that holds the most water with myself is that hockey is the ultimate team game. Determining the winner via a shootout turns a team game into a 1-on-1 situation.

Additionally, the NHL regular season is 82 games per team. Most college hockey teams play less than half of that, so the argument could be made the each regular season college game is much more important than a regular season NHL game.

The NHL turned to the shootout in part because of the excitement it brings, with the theory being that more fans would tune into their fledgling brand with a shootout in place. But college hockey, and in particular the WCHA, have no such issues. Attendance at WCHA games is at record highs during the regular season, and the Final Five seems to break various attendance records on an annual basis.