Free Hockey: Is it worth it?

By: Miranda Martin

Including Tuesday’s 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, many Nashville Predators games have found themselves in extra time this season.

It started early in the season when 5 out of the first 8 games went into a shootout. The trend has continued, as the Preds have seen overtime or the shootout 9 out of 17 games—more than half of the games. Out of the 9 games that have gone past 60 minutes, 6 of them have gone to a shootout, with the Predators only winning two of them.

It’s not just the Predators, though. It seems the entire Western Conference has liked to see extra hockey time. Throughout the Western Conference, there have been a significant amount of games that have had free hockey, and it is considerably more than the Eastern Conference. In January alone, where there were only 100 total games, 16 Western Conference game saw either overtime or shootout, whereas the East only saw 9 games. Through Tuesday, February 19th, the Western Conference has seen 17 overtime/shootout games, totaling 33 for the first third of the season. The East has seen 12 games go into overtime/shootout, to total 21 games. Even more surprising? The Eastern Conference has only seen the shootout 9 times TOTAL… That’s just as many games that the Nashville Predators alone have gone past regulation.

Maybe this is the way the Western Conference is apologizing for the NHL Lockout. Since there are only 48 games this season, maybe they’re trying to add some free hockey time for the fans who lost over 2,000 minutes of hockey with the cut. For the Predators alone, the team has seen 52:56 of time after regulation—just a handful of minutes short of an entire 60-minute game. If the Predators add just 7:04 past regulation, the Predators’ overtime will add up to an entire regulation game. So it’s like having 49 games… just one of them dispersed frustratingly. Just with shootout games, there have been 115 minutes of scoreless overtime just for the Western Conference alone—enough for nearly two entire NHL games. That doesn’t even include the sudden death victories!

Or maybe it’s teams adapting to a shortened season, but with nearly 29% of the games in the Western Conference going into overtime or shootout, what does this mean for the rest of the season? Determining seeding is going to go beyond the frustrating “three point” games. The ever so obscure ROW statistic (Regulation and Overtime Wins) is going to be a major component in seeding if the overtimes continue at this rate. Out of 33 games that have gone past regulation, 23 games have seen a shootout to find victory—nearly 70%. Finding a victory in regulation or overtime is going to be crucial in order for a team to succeed.

At this rate, free hockey isn’t really worth it. Though it has been fun, when it’s happening this often, free hockey really is more costly. A shootout particularly is costly, as it may end up costing both teams. The losing team only gets a point, and the winning team doesn’t get the ROW win. No matter what, regulation wins are going to be much more beneficial this season, and will help determine who goes to the playoffs.

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