Like many Canadians, hockey and basketball are the two sports I watch most. Though I enjoy both equally – and in the playoffs, probably even prefer hockey a bit – I generally watch a lot more regular season basketball than hockey. I suspect this is true for many hockey+basketball fans, especially in the United States, and perhaps also among younger generations of fans in Toronto.
With this in mind, here are a few regular season rule changes that would prevent me from changing the channel during hockey games. I’m not saying the NHL should make any of these changes. (Except for the first one, which the NHL should definitely make. No more shootouts!). But if it did, I’d watch more:
- Obviously, 2nd OT > Shootout
The league must know this already, which leads me to suspect that maybe the players are wary of having to work more/risk injury more during additional regular season overtimes. If that is the reason why we don’t have 2nd OTs yet, there’s a simple fix: in the 2nd OT, no players from 1st OT will be allowed to play. This means there is no extra workload or injury risk for top-line players. Instead, third or fourth liners who don’t usually get to play in OT will have a chance to shine.
- Blowout the Goalie: If a team is down by 4 goals in the 3rd period, they must pull their goalie to attempt a comeback (and risk an even bigger blowout)
If I flip over to the Leaf game and one of the teams is up by 4, I usually change the channel. Especially if it’s in the 3rd period. But if the trailing team had to pull their goalie in this situation, I would keep watching. I’d watch to see if they could get closer to making a comeback, but even if that comeback attempt failed miserably I might still keep watching just to see how many goals – on both sides – would take place.
- The Final Four: 4-on-4 hockey played in the final few minutes of the 3rd period (beginning after the first stoppage of play that occurs during the final four minutes of the game)
We don’t get to see enough 4-on-4 hockey these days, ever since OT switched to 3-on-3. But 4-on-4 hockey is great to watch, and if it took place during the final few minutes of the game it would lead to more scoring attempts in crunch time. It would probably get me to keep watching even when one of the teams is up by a few goals late in the game, because I’d want to see how the 4-on-4 shakes out before assuming the game is won or lost. And when the game is tied late in the third period, it would help to counteract the trend of teams playing conservatively in order to send the game to overtime and so receive at least a point in the standings for an OT loss
- Video-Review Ref Clock: the refs get no more than 30 seconds of video review time to decide on a call. The clock starts ticking as soon as the play stops.
If a team is still unhappy with the call after that relatively quick video review, they can then use their coach’s challenge if they wish. And the risk of people changing the channel during a video review and then getting sucked into watching something else as a result would go way down. The video-review might even become interesting, since you’d get to watch the refs sweat it out..
- If a short-handed goal is scored, the penalty ends
I’ve enjoyed watching teams (especially the Leafs) become more aggressive in trying to score short-handed goals in recent years, even at the risk of giving up more power play scoring chances as a result. This rule change would further incentivize short-handed risk-taking, especially early on in the penalty kill.