Are TV timouts ruining the game?
- I like this article, some good thought behind this
Television timeouts enervating the NHL
ANALYSIS: Interruptions disrupt flow of the game and kill offence, TIM
By TIM WHARNSBY
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman convened a meeting with a
few players, some league executives and a couple of members of the media in
New York yesterday to discuss the decline in interest in the professional
game in the United States.
They likely thrashed about the rule changes being contemplated by the
league's general managers. You know, the tag-up offside rule, the moving
back of the goal lines, no-touch icing and the continual picking on
Here's hoping one of the members of this purported blue-ribbon panel had the
temerity to tell Bettman to stop picking on the size of the goaltender's
pads and whether they can play the puck behind the goal line. Instead, let's
hope someone convinced Bettman to deal with a more serious issue
Goaltenders were asked to reduce the width of their pads to 12 inches (30.5
centimetres) in the late 1980s, yet players such as Brett Hull (86 goals in
1990-91), Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny (76 goals each in 1992-93) and
Luc Robitaille (63 goals in 1992-93) managed to find room to score.
The league wants to lop off another two inches.
Last year, the goaltenders had their knee boards taken away. Was there any
coincidence that the lack of shock absorbers for goaltenders resulted in hip
injuries to Sean Burke, Robert Esche, Jocelyn Thibault and Tommy Salo?
The tag-up offside rule, no-touch icing and the moving of the goal line back
closer to the end boards are steps in the right direction. But another key
issue that should be discussed is the lack of flow to the game. Television
timeouts are killing the NHL game. It disrupts the flow of the game and
"The key for us as players is to have a strong flow to the game,'' St. Louis
Blues defenceman Chris Pronger said. "You saw how no TV timeouts in the
Olympics restored that flow, and we see it every spring in the playoffs
because there are no television timeouts in overtime and there is tremendous
flow to the game in OT.
"TV timeouts are momentum killers. One team benefits and the other team does
The focus on the lack of offence in the game today has been laid at the feet
of the defensive-first systems that teams employ these days, as well as
goaltending and expansion. But the statistics also indicate television
timeouts have played a role in the decrease in the number of goals and
quality scoring chances.
Before the 1992-93 season, when the league introduced four 70-second
timeouts for television a period (later changed to three 90-second timeouts
a period), an average of 6.91 goals were scored a game in 1991-92, when each
game had a barely noticeable seven 30-second commercial breaks a period.
In the first season of regulated television timeouts, goals a game topped
out at an average of 7.24, but as the league's coaches became more
accustomed to using the timeouts to slow down the game, the number of goals
have steadily decreased. The better players are on the ice more as a result
of the timeouts, and this may have resulted in too much ice time for these
players and more injuries.
The number of goals bottomed out this past season when only 5.13 goals a
game were scored on average, a 48-year low. The problem will be convincing
the league that the Olympic style, in which there were no television
timeouts, is best. The league has to kowtow to the networks because of
revenue the local deals bring in and, of course, the Hockey Night in Canada
contract in Canada.
"Unfortunately, we're in a situation unlike other leagues that we need every
dollar we can squeeze out of television deals, local and national,'' said
Hall of Famer Bill Barber, who is also the Tampa Bay Lightning's director of
player personnel. "Would we like to have them out? Sure we would. It would
put the flow back in the game.''
Barber believes the tag-up offside rule will help put some flow back into
the game. The rule was in effect from the 1986-87 season for about a decade.
Pronger would like to see the enforcement of the hurry-up faceoff returned.
"What happened to that rule?'' Pronger asked. "It sort of disappeared.''
After the hurry-up faceoff was such a success at the Salt Lake Olympics in
2002, in which teams had only 15 seconds to line up after a stoppage in
play, the league implemented an 18-second hurry-up faceoff for the 2002-03
season. The players felt it was a huge success, but the enforcement of the
rule dropped significantly last season.
So, could we see no television timeouts in the NHL? Hockey Night in Canada
executive producer Joel Darling said it is unlikely because advertisers want
their commercials shown during the period because "that's when the most
people are watching.
"Television timeouts have almost become a part of sport,'' Darling said.
"The only option I see is go back to the seven 30-second stops. I would be
happy with that.''
So would the players. And in the long run the game would be better.
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