The NHL announced Tuesday it would recommend using a form of three-on-three overtime period, possibly as soon as next season.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said the new ovetime format, debated this week by the league’s general managers, would be recommended and forwarded to the NHL-NHL Players Association competiiton committee for approval.
For those such as the Canes’ Ryan Murphy and Michal Jordan, who have already experienced three-on-time overtime play, there was no debate. They're all in.
The two defenseman got a taste of three-on-three overtime this season playing for the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League.
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"I enjoyed it," Murphy said Tuesday. "It's obviously tough from a defensive standpoint because there's so much open ice. With skill players out there you can make a lot of scoring chances.
"But it's a lot of fun. I played in them a few times and I had a couple of breakaways and it's exciting."
The NHL could use more excitement. A shootout after a five-minute overtime was implemented in the NHL to eliminate ties and determine a game winner, but a lot of the thrill is gone.
"I think the shootout maybe is tired," Canes coach Bill Peters said Tuesday. "I don't know. I think something different would be good, give us a little boost."
In the AHL, overtimes can extend the game for seven minutes and begin with four-on-four play. With the first whistle after the three-minute mark, it’s on to three-on-three. If the score is still tied, it's then on to a shootout.
"I remember a game where in about a 40-second span of three-on-three there was like six Grade-A scoring chances," Jordan said. "The fans loved it."
The GMs looked at the AHL model at their meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. But it’s also possible a five-minute three-on-three overtime period could be recommended.
"It's exciting in the American League but there's some down side," Peters said. "You talk about your skill guys playing more. You talk about extending the length of the game and possibly exposing guys to injury. But as coaches if they put it in we'll adapt."
In the AHL last season, 64.7 percent of overtime games went to a shootout. This season, adding three-on-three, it has been 23.7 percent.
There are unique challenges to it, Murphy said. At times with the Checkers, he would be the only defenseman playing with two forwards and then be stuck on the ice.
"They'd change and I'd still be out there," he said, smiling. "One time I was caught out there for a full two and a half minutes. I was exhausted. It definitely factors in on the line changes and other dynamics of the game."
While three-on-three can make for a more stressful time for goalies, Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators said he's in favor of adopting it in the NHL. Before becoming the hottest goaltending story in the NHL, Hammond was with Binghamton of the AHL.
"In shootouts it's one-on-one," Hammond said Tuesday. "But what we found was when the three-on-three starts, it always seemed one team would go down with a big opportunity. If they don't score, it's coming back the other way three-on-one. So it does put a little more onus on the goalie from the point that you almost feel like you're on a little bit of an island if it's three-on-one or three-on-two in the odd-man rush situation. From there it's up and down the ice and odd-man rushes."
Hammond also noted shootout goals don't count against the goalie's individual stats. Overtime goals do.
"But it's all in good fun and I'm a fan of it," Hammond said.
Peters said he was in favor of bringing in the shootout to decide games, saying at the time it was a change for the better.
"Everybody loved it," Peters said. "If we make this change to the three-on-three I think everybody is going to love that, too."