November 17, 2008
While there is still admirable outrage over the NHL's decision to end regular season games with a skills competition, there is a growing number of fans and media that are moving to the "learning to live with it" camp when it comes to the shootout. Those who still respect the basic tenets of what makes hockey great, and the overall integrity of team sports, are left hoping they don't live long enough to see the Stanley Cup awarded on this bastardization of the game.
The great Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe is a traditionalist who openly refers to the shootout as a gimmick and absolutely loathes the overtime charity point:
The NHL just can't seem to accept pure winners and pure losers. Must be some Canadian thing.
Ouch. But even Dupont quietly admits that the shootout is here to stay (for now). So if the skills competition isn't going anywhere, why not use it for the only thing it's really good for: Promoting the individual personalities and stars in the NHL to a casual, SportsCenter-highlight audience? Dupont's suggestion:
Still don't understand why players choose not to remove their helmets for the shootout. The league is in desperate need of improving player recognition, especially if it ever hopes to deliver personality features to its minuscule national TV base in the United States. When the shootout was instituted, players were concerned that goalie poke-checks or poor ice could lead to slip-and-falls, and possible head injuries when crashing into the boards. Ya know, if that's their degree of safety concern, better that they all opt for double-runners and round-the-waist rubber bumpers.
Obviously, taking off the helmets would help solve what many consider one of the major marketing obstacles for the NHL: Allowing fans at home to see and recognize players' faces. That's why I endorsed the notion in my "5 Ways I'd Change the NHL" piece (see No. 5).
That said, Dupont's cynical recitation of the safety concerns is quite valid. Getting the NHLPA to sign off on removing safety equipment won't be easy. And god forbid a visor-wearing player takes a puck to the eye on a sharp rebound off the post in a shootout -- all the good marketing vibes in the world couldn't overcome that literal and figurative black eye. So, with that in mind:
Pass or Fail: Taking helmets off of the shooters in the shootout?