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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Counterpoint: Screw Ties by @Nick422

Yesterday, my well regarded counterpart Brian Keenan valiantly tried to make a case for bringing ties back to the NHL.  He put passion and pizzaz into his post.  He made some logical arguments.  He's also really, really wrong.  Ties suck.  Screw ties.

After the lock out that cost the 2004-05 season, ties were eliminated from the NHL lexicon (beyond the beauty you see above).  A long traditioned part of the game, its elimination is one of the best things to come from that stupid, and unnecessary, lock out.

Instituted instead was the shoot out.  A game that went beyond overtime would finally have some sort of definitive finish.  It would give a chance for the individual to highlight ability in a sport where helmets and quick pace make individualism difficult.  It would make for an exciting mano e mano conclusion to what was, hopefully, a pulse pounding night out at the rink.

Instead critics bemoaned a fine way to end the game.  They disliked the idea of a "skills competition" deciding a game (to be fair, the way obstruction has re-entered the game the league clearly doesn't care for skill).  Ignoring the great televised theater and focusing on The Way It Used To Be, they wanted it gone.  Unfortunately there has been no better proposed alternative.

In a perfect world, continuous OT as we see in the playoffs would be the answer.  It might push the pace so players are done sooner.  It might make players get off their duff and try harder so things end sooner.  It might even make a few national headlines as some random game in February goes until 2am.  However there's no way the NHLPA would let that fly.

Instead a compromise of sorts is the 3 on 3 OT.  It's been great.  Speed, skill, and results.  As Brian points out, now 63.7% of overtime games ended in overtime instead of going to the shoot out.  That's up from 45.1% of OT games ending last year in OT.  That means more teams are pushing the pace and trying to win.  And that's the key to all of this: winning.

Sports is a primal thing.  It's modern day gladiatorial battle.  It's the way we now witness the Romans fight tigers, lions, each other.  In that, it was life or death.  The only tie was both parties dying.  In those days there was a winner.  We expect a winner.  Sports is winning.  Sports is about prevailing against the odds and succeeding.

With ties, no one wins.  Seeing a game end in a tie is like going out to a fancy dinner, paying your check, and never eating.  There's no high of victory.  There's no low of defeat.  There's a grey limbo where you just kind of stare off on the ride home, wondering why you wasted your time.

A tie is reading a book and never finishing the ending.  A tie is the projector breaking in the theater when you're about to find out what happens when Han Solo talks to Kylo Ren.  A tie removes the very reason we go to these events: the thrill of saying, even if for a day, your team was better.

The NBA allows for continuous OT because it's harder to tie.  MLB allows for extra innings because most are decided right away and there's a far less physical toll.  The NFL allows ties, but they're so rare that it becomes an event when one comes to pass.  The NHL is the only sport in which a tie in common place amongst the Big Four.  The MLS allows ties and well... MLS.

The overtime solution right now is imperfect.  However it is fun.  The 3 on 3 allows for breakneck action.  The shootout gives people a reason to rise to their feet to enjoy the thrill of one on one action, to see who wins in a chess match on ice.  More importantly, it gives you a conclusion.

Ties suck.  They're boring.  They're hollow.  They're a waste of time and money.  Give me a winner, a loser, and a logical conclusion.  Let the losers have their stupid point.  I need to know who is better.

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