Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In defense of the early morning...

Thanks to frasnap on The Official, The Peerless had a chance to read this essay from The Sporting News’ Kara Yorio . . . here is the money quote:

“If the shootout is a good enough way to decide how teams get into the playoffs, then it should be a good enough way to decide who wins the games once they're there -- after teams have been given a long enough chance to finish things off with that ‘real hockey.’

“Asking these players to play beyond two overtimes is unfair, unhealthy, mentally and physically exhausting and detrimental to the quality of hockey that comes in later games.”

To be charitable, The Peerless disagrees. If he wasn’t charitable, he might say something like this . . .


Unfair to whom? The fan? I'm guessing no, since OT games are often the stuff of legend that endures in hockey conversations. The players? Well, no -- on two counts. First, it is not unfair to the opponents within the series, since each has to endure the overtime. And for anyone who wants to argue that it puts an advancing club at a disadvantage for the next round, then how do you explain away the advantage a club gets by closing out a series early? If we are to "even the ice," so to speak, should we not require the club that sweeps a series to keep playing, so as to maintain an even level of effort expended?

Unhealthy? These are some of the most well-conditioned athletes on the planet (I'd argue hockey requires more conditioning, and a wider range of athletic skill, than just about any other team sport). And, how many players have suffered season-ending or career threatening injuries as a result of a long overtime session? Take your time; we’ll wait while you Google that question.

Detrimental to the quality of hockey that comes in later games? We'll stipulate that if this was to occur in a game 7, the winning club might face a disadvantage in the first game of the ensuing series -- a product of the previous game's effort and focus. But that is: a) one game (where is the effect demonstrated in later games?), and b) it's a part of the obstacle course. It is this odyssey in an effort to win 16 games – including the odd 100-plus-minute game – that makes hockey, “hockey.”

The argument -- "Protect the players. Value the hockey. End the endurance test (as she puts it) -- is just so much nonsense on its face....but The Peerless is arguing against a tsunami. Within five years, we’ll wager, there will be a shootout following one full 20-minute overtime period in all but games 7 of series. And it will have nothing whatsoever to do with "protecting the players."

At that point, I'll rather watch poker.

1 comment:

Stimpy said...

Maybe I never noticed before, but why are multi-OT games a problem this year, when they have occurred at least once or twice every playoff season? I just don't ever remember anyone complaining about it before. Long OTs in the playoffs are the most exciting games (no matter the sport). Maybe baseball should have a home run derby after the 12th inning and basketball a free throw contest after the first OT. I understand limiting regular season games (travel issues, play different teams next night, one game usually isn't as important), but playoffs are were every minute has meaning and value, one mistake can end a season. Long life OT Playoff hockey!