October 06, 2009
Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine will be running in the New York Marathon this year to benefit the ING Run for Something Better program, which provides funding for school-based running programs and encourages fitness in our Happy Meal society.
We had a chance to chat with him about it (and everything from the Olympics to concussions), and that full interview will run later this week. But when we asked the former New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers great what changes he'd make to the NHL, his answer really blew our minds.
You see, LaFontaine was an early proponent of the shootout before the skills competition was established in regular-season overtimes. It speaks to everything the St. Louis native believes the NHL needs to enchant fans in the U.S.: Speed, skill and a chance for individual stars to shine in pressure situations.
Taking that idea to a fascinating new level, LaFontaine offered this:
"Maybe if there's five minutes to go in the third period, if there's a penalty taken, maybe there's an optional penalty shot?
"Here are your options: You either get one penalty shot or a two minute penalty where the player doesn't come out of the box. You have a chance to go for two goals instead of maybe one goal. But what if the penalty occurs with, say, 30 seconds left in the game? What it does is allow some excitement into the game. You need to put the breakaway back in the game."
We might be in the minority here, but we enjoy the tension of a 2-minute power-play as much as we enjoy the visceral thrill of a breakaway. In fact, we've suggested in the past that the shootout should be canned in favor of teams trading 4-on-3 man advantages.
But LaFontaine offers a tantalizing suggestion: Giving teams a dramatic strategic decision late in the game. Go for one, with a tie game on a superstar's stick? Go for more? Patty said it'd almost be like giving the NHL a three-point shot late in the game. So, with that, two questions for the readership:
1. Pass or Fail: Pat LaFontaine's penalty shot/"2-minute major" power-play option.
2. Pass or Fail: All power plays should be "majors," allowing teams to score as many goals as they can until the penalty expires.