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Olympic Hockey Plusses

from Paul Grant of ESPN,

It might be blasphemous to say on the NHL page, but hockey at the Olympics is better in so many ways than it is in the NHL. Seven ways I'm backing that up: 

- The shootout. Let's start with the most contentious issue. NHL GMs complain that they don't like games to be settled by the coin flip that is a glorified skills competition. Reminder: The idea of the game is to entertain the fans with displays of amazing skills and talent. Sure, it's a profession for the players -- but it's a pastime for the fans....

- Bigger ice. Because greed doesn't rule, the games at the Olympics (outside of North America) are played on the bigger ice, the way it should be. The 200x85 surface was fine for when the average size of the players in the NHL was 6 feet and under, but those days are long gone. More space (Olympics ice is 200x100) means more creativity, more scoring chances, more emphasis on strategy, less boring play such as digging in the corners or fighting for the puck along the boards or dumping-and-chasing. This is especially evident during overtime, which is 4-on-4.

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Filed in: Non-NHL Hockey, International Hockey, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: sochi+olympics

Comments

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Anyone who says bigger ice leads to more scoring chances needs to watch Canada-Finland again

Posted by jkrdevil on 02/17/14 at 12:33 PM ET

SK77's avatar

And what could be more entertaining than the skilled and talented T.J. Oshie taking shootout shot after shot.

I don’t know. A fuchin hockey game?

Country rivalries. These are not manufactured, like, say, a Florida Panthers-Carolina Hurricanes rivalry that has to be stoked with countless intraconference games that force the players to feel the hate because they’ve seen each other’s ugly mugs so many freakin’ times.

Yep, USA v. Slovenia had me screaming, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” ... unlike those boring-ass Wings v. Chicago match ups, or Wings v. Dive of yore. Now, USA v. Canada is a great matchup and so is Russia, but there are great rivalries and nonexistent rivalries at every level.

Money doesn’t rule. Well, at least not on the ice. (IOC notwithstanding.)

Right. Money plays zero role in the Olympics. Just a bunch of good-natured folks throwing on a completely laid-back event in a tiny Alpine setting with a long history of winter sports.

Bigger ice. Because greed doesn’t rule, the games at the Olympics (outside of North America) are played on the bigger ice, the way it should be ... more creativity, more scoring chances, more emphasis on strategy, less boring play.

“It’s the nature of the game, this international game,” Duchene said. “This is why the NHL should never go to big ice. It’ll take the scoring out of the game. You’re able to play way more defensive on the big ice. It makes for less offense. You’ve seen no offense almost the entire tournament. It’s either been a blowout or a real close game.”

That’s a quote from Matt Duchene ... you know, someone who actually plays the game.

Thanks, ESPN, for starting my morning off with some bullet point list of stupid-arse nonsense.

Posted by SK77 on 02/17/14 at 12:37 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

As a fan that has walked out of many shootouts I would much prefer a bigger net that is relative to the HUGE size of today’s goaltenders.  My memory of the Dodger Stadium game is how HUGE the Anaheim goaltender looked. 

Beyond that it is easy to go commie and rip the owners “greed” but they have to pay for the greed of the players union’s insatiable appetite and huge contracts.  Its always easy for a “journalist” to spend the owner’s money…

The simple solution to today’s “3-2 shutdown league” that is played in a phone booth is 4 on 4 full time with bigger nets. 

If you watch old Bobby Orr highlights you immediately come to the conclusion that that in today’s NHL there would be no room for Bobby Orr to be Bobby Orr.  THAT’S WRONG!  As John Tortorella has said today’s game is ping pong in which most goals are deflections and junk with little skill involved.

Make the game 4 v 4 with bigger bets as an acknowledgement to the size of today’s players and you’ll have less shootouts, more scoring, more excitement, and more fans and TV ratings. 

A “3-2 shutdown league” played in a phone booth with goaltenders bigger than the nets is NOT a business model for growth and in fact is the type of attitude that got the NHL kicked to the curb by ESPN.  Most fans do not tune into hockey games to study the technical aspects of making paint dry.  Fans want up and down action, playmaking, and scoring.  The average guy watching hoops that sees 1-0 and 0-0 3rd period NHL scores is simply not going to be inclined to pick up his remote and flip to hockey.

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 02/17/14 at 12:45 PM ET

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Anyone who says bigger ice leads to more scoring chances needs to watch Canada-Finland again

Well, if we’re going to make blanket statements based on one game then I’ll see your Canada-Finland and raise you a Finland-Austria, or a Russia-Slovenia, or maybe a USA-Slovakia.

Nevermind that Babcock’s statements the other day (the ones that some saw as being genius and one step ahead of everything else) show that he simply doesn’t understand how to utilize the bigger ice, so any Team Canada game might not be a great indicator.

Posted by Garth on 02/17/14 at 12:55 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

I wondered when this tired old story would poke its head out like the Groundhog every February?

Seriously, I think this story was written in about 1960 and someone, Paul Grant ( never heard of him???) in this case, blows off the dust and recycles it again and again and again.

When can I expect the Olympic hockey is better because there is no fighting story.

Lazy journalists are almost as depressing as a shoutout in hockey shut eye

Posted by Down River Dan on 02/17/14 at 12:56 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Nevermind that Babcock’s statements the other day (the ones that some saw as being genius and one step ahead of everything else) show that he simply doesn’t understand how to utilize the bigger ice, so any Team Canada game might not be a great indicator.

Posted by Garth on 02/17/14 at 11:55 AM ET

While the rink lengths are the same the IIHF hasn’t matched the NHL rule change so the distance from the blueline to goal is six feet shorter than in the NHL. Harder to keep it in the offensive zone, harder for skilled offensive defensemen or those with great snapshots to work their magic, etc.

Coupled with rinks that are 15 feet wider, it makes it easier for teams like Finland (or NJ Devils circa 90’s) to completely clog up the middle and push skill players out to the boards so the majority of shots available are bad angles from far out against great goalies.

I’m still failing to see how Olympic ice is the formula for more goalscoring at this point.

Posted by SK77 on 02/17/14 at 01:28 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

Overhead cameras could and should be used for illegal formation clogging penalties.  Canada’s game yesterday was a dreadful snore and dead puck era-esque

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 02/17/14 at 01:29 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed watching the games on the big ice. Players have more room to make moves, and in many of the games, it’s obvious with lots of end-to-end rushes (unless Finland is playing). That said, I don’t think the NHL should go to the big ice even if it was willing to. Part of the enjoyment of these games comes from the quality of the players. I’m not so sure that watching games on the big ice would be as enjoyable if at least one of the teams wasn’t all superstars (I haven’t watched games featuring two teams of mostly non-NHLers).

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 02/17/14 at 01:32 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Olympic hockey is a meandering mess, much like KHL hockey, because of the larger ice surface.  Even the players who play on it regularly dont seem to know how to utilize it to generate more offense.

And there’s no need to say much about the shootout, other than it is a disappointing ending to a great game.  Its a shame that hockeys big national exposure so far during these games is Oshie taking an endless string of penalty shots.

Posted by Hootinani on 02/17/14 at 01:37 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Quote with emphasis added by me:

1. The shootout. Let’s start with the most contentious issue. NHL GMs complain that they don’t like games to be settled by the coin flip that is a glorified skills competition. Reminder: The idea of the game is to entertain the fans with displays of amazing skills and talent. Sure, it’s a profession for the players—but it’s a pastime for the fans.

This guy doesn’t know many hockey fans. For many hockey fandom is a lifestyle, a vocation, a fundamental part of their identities. It ain’t fluffernutter.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/17/14 at 01:54 PM ET

Avatar

In North America there is strong correlation between goals per game and quality of league—the better your league, the fewer goals per game are scored. More goals are scored in the AHL than the NHL, more in the ECHL than AHL, more in juniors than ECHL. Last year when there was no inter-conference play (i.e., the NHL essentially operated as two independent leagues) the weaker East was much higher scoring than the stronger West.

However, Euro leagues—including those with much weaker overall competition levels than the NHL—typically feature goals per game figures at or below NHL averages. With weaker competition we would expect more goals being scored, not fewer.

Furthermore, it’s admittedly a small sample, but for a more apples to apples comparison we can compare scoring rates the 2014 Olympics (big ice) vs. the 2010 Olympics (small ice). Ten of the twelve teams are common to both competitions, with Germany and Belarus being replaced by Austria and Slovenia.

In Vancouver, an average of 5.78 goals per game were scored during the 18 group stage games. In Sochi, the average was 4.83.

I think the actual evidence supports the conclusion that bigger ice favors defensive play in the aggregate and leads to fewer goals being scored. To the extent that the Olympics are considered “more exciting” than the NHL, I would imagine this to be despite, rather than because of, the size of the ice, and a result of the fact that top Olympic teams are more talented than NHL teams.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 02/17/14 at 02:11 PM ET

Savage Henry's avatar

I’ve never understood the argument that greed is what keeps the owners from supporting the bigger ice surface.  Sure, there would be fewer seats in a building of a given size, but since the perimeter of the rink is larger there would be more premium seats on or close to the glass.  What owner wouldn’t trade a few seats on row ZZ for seats on the glass?

I recognize that retrofitting existing rinks would be a big expense, but if teams were given the option when new buildings are built, that expense can be eliminated or minimized, as well.

Posted by Savage Henry on 02/17/14 at 02:22 PM ET

Avatar

All I had to do was see his enjoyment of the shootout right off the bat to get an idea of how bad that article was going to be.  What a mess.

I didn’t curse once watching the USA/Russia game.  I was never even close to raising my voice.  Had not one derogatory thing to say about any of the Russian players other than commenting calmly if they made a bad play.  During every Detroit/Florida game this year I’ve yelled obscenities at the screen all during the games.  I’ve yelled things at the Florida players that if my mother heard me say, even well into her 60’s she’d slap me across the face so hard I’d be in a neck brace for weeks.

Entertaining game, sure, but what enjoyment I did get from watching had a fat steaming crap taken on it with the knowledge that a shootout was going to decide the “winner”.  There is no entertainment value for me in watching TJ Oshie try to beat Jonathon Quick over and over again.  I suffered through a few rounds then turned the game off after Oshie’s second try and just checked who won later, and I’d do the same thing for any future Olympic game as well.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 02/17/14 at 02:58 PM ET

YzermanZetterberg's avatar

Reminder: The idea of the game is to entertain the fans with displays of amazing skills and talent.

I think Mr. Grant forgot to include “in concert with and opposition to other players on the ice” at the end of his sentence.

By focusing on the “amazing skills and talent” of the shooter versus those of the goalie you take what at its best is an extremely complex and nuanced game and reduce it to its absolute basics—offense versus defense.

One chance. No rebounds. No chance for a return attack on the other goal, let alone the precise skill and teamwork required to generate a scoring rush with tremendous skating and pinpoint passing or stop such a rush with a well-timed stick, slide or block. Yeah, the shootout is pure excitement.  *yawn*

Posted by YzermanZetterberg on 02/17/14 at 03:02 PM ET

Avatar

There is no entertainment value for me in watching TJ Oshie try to beat Jonathon Quick over and over again.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 02/17/14 at 01:58 PM ET

Shows you how entertained I was; couldn’t even get the players right.  Guess I meant TJ Oshie trying to beat Sergei Bobrovsky

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 02/17/14 at 03:28 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

Having the same guy do the shootout over and over again takes a bad idea and makes it worse. Good for Oshie and USA but, again, hockey needs to evolve to size of players and goalies.

Many of the Olympic games have been dreadful snores, NHL games have come out looking better than most of them, despite the NHL’s own issues that need to be addressed.

I’ll take a 10 minute OT and tie over a shootout.

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 02/17/14 at 03:35 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

I first saw shoot outs when the Vipers had them. Each team would go 5 rounds to determine the winner. It seemed like a good idea at the time when the NHL began using them, as I thought the Red Wings with all of their skilled players would win more shoot outs than they would lose. Obviously I was wrong about it. Now I agree it would be a better solution to have longer O.T.‘s with 4 on 4 , then 3 on 3 at 5 minutes each. If no no scores the game remains a tie. Much more exiting to watch.  Also make a regulation win 3 points, 2 points for an OT win.. Each team would receive a point in a tie. The losing team in O.T. would receive a point. This way there is more urgency for a regulation win. It would probably not be used by the NHL as it makes too much sense.

Posted by bigfrog on 02/17/14 at 05:42 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

I meant to say if no one scores the game remains a tie. My bad.

Posted by bigfrog on 02/17/14 at 05:44 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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