The NHL did it right with 3-on-3 overtime

The 2015-2016 NHL season has been full of ups and downs.

So far, we have seen a rape investigation on Chicago Blackhawks’ star Patrick Kane come and go, a record almost broken by the Montreal Canadiens, who fell one win shy of a 10-0 start and an injury to the of Edmonton Oilers’ forward and Calder Trophy favorite Connor McDavid, which will keep him out for months.

But the biggest development in the new season is the introduction of 3-on-3 overtime. It is, without a doubt, the best thing to happen to the league since the beginning of the expansion era (1967-present).


During the offseason, the NHL created the new overtime system as a method to have less shootouts. While it was a big change, it only brought with it a few new rules:

  1. Teams will play a five-minute sudden death overtime period (just like before).
  2. Each team will have three skaters and a goaltender.
  3. If a team commits a penalty, the opposing team will gain a player, resulting in a 4-on-3 power play (5-on-3 for two overlapping penalties against the same team).
  4. If the overtime period does not yield a goal, then teams will enter a shootout (just like before).
  5. Goalies will switch ends before the overtime period.

The new overtime system has, so far, changed the league for the better and will continue to do so as long as it’s in place.

Less Shootouts

The NHL’s executives’ first idea behind the new overtime rule was to help decrease the amount of games decided by shootouts, which, while exciting, aren’t the best way to decide which team deserves to win. A team’s fate could be stacked on the shoulders of a single player. It’s just not real hockey.

So far this year, there have been 214 regular season games in the league. Out of those 214 games, only 13 of them have gone into a shootout. Since each team plays 82 games in a season, that gets us to 1,230 total regular season games per season. At this rate, there will be only 74 games that head to a shootout. Last year, there were 170 total games that went to a shootout. This year, only 35 percent of overtime games have gone into a shootout, significantly less than at this point in last year’s season. 

Already we have seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of shootout-deciding games. Looks like 3-on-3 has done exactly what it’s supposed to.

Saving Time

A small, but important, benefit of the new 3-on-3 overtime is that it ends games a lot quicker. Compared to last year, goals are scored much quicker in overtime, almost a whole minute earlier in the extra stanza.


The best part about the new overtime rule is that it brings people to the edge of their seats.


3-on-3 overtime, while being an absolute hell for the goaltenders and defensemen, including Winnipeg Jets’ D-man Dustin Byfuglien, gives a chance for the best in the league to showcase their talent, speed, and smarts on the ice, as we see here. Just two minutes and 17 seconds of this 3-on-3 overtime saw more high-quality scoring chances than in the 60 preceding minutes.

An overtime that exciting, however, is only average in the league’s new system.

The new overtime gives way to beautiful goals, even better saves, and slick plays. These are the things that the fans come to see. They want action, and if they happen to be getting a little “free hockey,” then action is most definitely what they’ll get.

Any fan would be lucky to see an extra five minutes of hockey, so if you find yourself in an NHL arena with the game tied late, pray that the next goal happens in overtime. If you’re lucky, your team will win that oh-so-exciting mini-battle.

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