The NHL’s Board of Governors voted Wednesday to change the overtime format next season to three-on-three for five minutes in an effort to reduce the number of shootouts after regulation.
The Board also approved coaches to challenge goals on the basis of goalie interference calls or offside calls, as well as a change to the face off rule that requires the defensive zone player to place his stick on the ice first. The league also announced it will begin accepting bids for expansion franchises.
The 3-on-3 overtime aims to improve a team’s chances of winning a game in overtime, instead of the game moving to a shootout. During the 2014-15 season, 170 games went to a shootout.
"I've always said that as exciting that the shootouts can be, I would prefer the games to get decided in the overtime, and there's evidence that when you go from four-on-four to three-on-three, it increases the likelihood of a goal in the overtime," Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said, according to NHL.com. “So I think there's a good chance the percentage of overtime goals will go up with this change and I think it's an improvement."
The NHL adopted the shootout in 2005, which eliminated ties. The four-on-four concept in the NHL has been around since the 1999 season.
The American Hockey League went to a three-on-three concept this past season, and 75% of the games that were tied at the end of regulation ended in overtime rather than a shootout. The previous season, 35% of games that went to overtime ended in the extra period.
This season in the NHL, 44.4% of games that went into overtime ended during that period.
The difference between the AHL and NHL overtime model is that the AHL starts with a seven-minute overtime and four players to each side. If no goals are scored through the first four minutes, it goes down to three-on-three.
"There's obviously a lot of space and I think once there is one scoring chance at one end, typically if you don't score it goes back the other way," Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "It ends up being exciting, fast-paced and, obviously, the skill level of the players comes out.
"It's just really risky hockey and it makes it very exciting. I saw some of it at the American League level, and it's very exciting."
- Scooby Axson