I have to say that I've been a proponent of the shootout since the age of 9. I was playing shootout mode on one of the NHL games for Sega Genesis when I got the idea.
'Why don't they get rid of ties and have a shootout? They're so cool!' I thought. And hey, apparently, the only thing you had to do was shoot the puck just before crossing the blue line every time you came down the ice and it would always go over the goalie's shoulder.
Love it or hate it, the shootout is the most exciting thing to happen to hockey in the past few years, and I can't believe it took the NHL so freaking long to figure it out.
You don't have to be a marketing genius to figure out the potential of this thing. I don't care if you think it's an illegitimate way to end a game or it affects the standings adversely. You can't deny that less people leave the game early to see it, and everyone
is on their feet. You get the best of both worlds: either there's going to be a big save or a big goal...unless you're Dennis Wideman and hit a knot in the ice. Then, it's still entertaining. The shootout is a neatly packaged highlight reel to air on TSN and ESPN.
James Duthie of TSN has been proposing a slam dunk/home run derby caliber event during the all-star game with the shootout. A genius idea. He wrote about it tongue in cheek on TSN's blog, but seriously, the NHL needs to do this. By pitching this idea as a package with the All-star game, we might be able to convince network television to pick up the all-star game and regain the national exposure the NHL deserves.
We always talk about how the NHL needs to market their stars better. Well, here you go. Even the most humble hockey players can have fun during a shootout, and people will see why we love hockey. When they're not shooting, take off their helmets so people can start recognizing faces. Interview them so people can see that not all professional athletes are disconnected from reality.
Overall, the shootout has been a positive thing, but I think it has so much more potential than being just the ending to a game.
When you're at the game, the shootout is exciting, nerve-wracking and gut wrenching. When you're watching it on TV - it's as boring as all get-out.
The last thing we should want is for hockey to be reliant on gimmickry to sell itself to people who otherwise don't appreciate it. The slam-dunk contest and home run derby are two of the most tedious things I can think of now being served up as entertainment. I was watching Animal Planet when the derby was on, begging for those goobers to get it over with so 'The Bronx Is Burning' could be aired. If we have to have a shootout, fine, I don't mind. But all games should be worth the same amount of points.