At age eleven I put on a pair of old rental skates at the Ak-Sar-Ben ice arena in Omaha. After that I was hooked on hockey, but was an average player at best. A Chicago Blackhawks season ticket holder I’ve long believed that the game could be more exciting. Now the NHL might be on the verge of transforming its game, even though they may not realize it.
Hockey has suffered because there are too many men on a small ice surface. This is exacerbated by blue line off-sides rules. Doing away with red line off sides has helped open up the game a bit but not nearly enough. Currently the offensive zone it is a mad scramble with 10 men scrumming around between the blue line and the goal line. It is difficult to shoot and as a result most goals are scored through deflection and goalie screening. The pure skating move or the dynamic slap shot to beat the goal tender is becoming rare.
I’ve thought for years that only the red line should remain and it should be used for icing purposes only. There would be no blue lines and no off sides. Under these conditions 5 on 5 hockey would be much more exciting. Simply put, those darned blue lines “bunch up” hockey making the game less enjoyable.
This year the NHL is using 3 on 3 hockey for the 5 minute overtime period. It is so darned exciting that I’m wishing for a tie so I can see 5 minutes of 3 on 3. Sunday January 31 the entire NHL All Star game will be played 3 on 3. This will be the beginning of the end for 5 on 5 NHL hockey. Once fans get a taste of 3 on 3, with its frequent break outs and many scoring chances, they will never go back to the 5 on 5 game.
Some have told me that 3 on 3 will never catch on because fewer players are needed, but I’m not so sure. With the furious action of 3 on 3 hockey four or five lines may be needed. The goalies will have to work harder, making a back-up goalie even more important.
I’ve never met a hockey fan who won’t concede that 3 on 3 is more exciting than 5 on 5.
The NHL will have to comply, either by adopting 3 on 3 for the entire game or by taking out the blue lines and opening the entire ice surface to exciting freestyle 5 on 5 hockey.