What’s Wrong With Ties?

Posted by: Mike Machnik

Things could get really ugly in college hockey. The annual argument to reduce ties in the game has come up again, as noted by Larry Mahoney of the Bangor News in his recap of the AHCA meetings in Naples last week

According to the article, Hockey East coaches voted 8-1-1 to reduce ties. But they can’t agree on the how. Yet each league remains free to experiment with its own methods of tiebreaking. After the standard 5:00 overtime, possibilities include playing several additional minutes of 4-on-4 or even 3-on-3, as Larry suggests. Or a shootout.

So you could have one league breaking ties in one way (regular season league games), and another in a different way. A game could go into the record books as a league win but an overall tie (as viewed by the NCAA for official stats and tournament selection).

This has all the making of an enormous mess.

Why not apply the same principle here as we do with instant replay. Is there sufficient evidence to overturn the call? If not, don’t do anything. The call on the field stands.

Likewise, there’s no consensus on how to reduce or eliminate ties. Some coaches would like to do it, but there’s no agreement on how to do it. So there won’t be any changes to the official NCAA rules.

Until that happens, let’s not change anything. Just keep playing the games by the official rules. Experimentation to this degree only causes confusion, as we saw in the mid-1990s when Hockey East tested the shootout for two years — quickly ditching it. People still look back at the standings from those years and say, “Wh-What?” 88 points for the first place team? That’s because during those years rather than the standard two points for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss, you got *five* for an outright win, three for a shootout win, two for a shootout loss (and none for an outright loss).

Hockey East Standings: 1994-95 | 1995-96 (PDFs)

This came about because as the first shootout season got underway, people started to realize that some games were worth more than others. A game without a shootout was worth a total of two points. Either one team gets two and the other none, or it’s a tie and both get one. But with the original plan of awarding an extra point to the shootout winner, some games would be worth three points. One team wins the shootout and gets two, and the SO loser gets one. Plus, a shootout win becomes worth exactly as much as a regular win. That didn’t make sense either.

The alternative, as it turned out, really wasn’t much better either. I’ll admit that — and I suggested that five point system that was adopted back then.

In short, until all of the issues can be ironed out and a consensus reached on how to do it, leave the ties alone. As it is I don’t see the problem. Some games should be ties. That’s one of the great things about hockey. On some nights both teams deserve something.

In other news, Hockey East coaches voted 10-0 to implement replay in all league games — this will cost $16,000 per school. Nice to see the unanimous agreement there. Coaches voted 7-0-3 in favor of the stricter standards on holding, hooking, interference, etc. similar to the NHL. They also suggested faceoffs following a penalty be held in the offending team’s defensive zone, calling icing when a shorthanded team ices the puck, and continuing to move to the two referee system. 

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