To Tie Or Not To Tie?

By Elliot Olshansky - January 31, 2008

With the Beanpot coming up this Monday, I'm getting ready to head to Boston once again, and I had a great time talking about the Beanpot last night during my regular appearance on Hockey On Campus on 1510 The Zone in Boston. Of course, one of my favorite parts of the Beanpot is the atmosphere in the press room before the game with so many of my wonderful colleagues in the media. It's one of those events where you see so many of the regular faces and it adds to the attraction of the event.

With that in mind, I'd like to write on a subject raised recently by one of those colleagues.

My friend Bob Snow of has written this week on the potential end of ties in college hockey. CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos is all for getting rid of ties, with a very simple reasoning, as told to Bob: "Competition is all about winning; so I think every game should determine a winner, and more importantly, fans want to see a winner determined."

Now, Tom Anastos is one of the great leaders in our sport, a very smart man, and a fantastic guy. I value his opinion very, very highly. However, in this case, I disagree with the venerable comissioner.

It's a bit odd, actually, because I enjoy shootouts in the NHL. When a game I'm at is tied entering the later stages of the third period, I do start to think about a shootout (I've only been to one NHL game with a shootout, I should add, and the Rangers lost it to the Penguins on a Sidney Crosby goal). I also remember hearing the observation made that the two things in a hockey game that get the entire crowd to stand are a penalty shot and a fight, and a shootout means at least four of the former.

But that's the NHL, and this is college hockey.

I know ties stink. When I was a senior at Dartmouth, the Big Green played to nine ties during the 28-game regular season. Some of the ties were good, like a tie in November against a Harvard team that beats my alma mater more than enough as it is, thank you very much. Some of them were bad, like the tie against Princeton where Dartmouth spent the last two minutes of regulation shorthanded after some idiot tossed a soda cup on the ice for a delay-of-game penalty right after Hugh Jessiman scored to tie the game. But I never had a problem with the concept of a tie.

But you know what? Sometimes a tie has been earned on both sides, and as long as it's the regular season, that's how it should be allowed to stand. Thankfully, the shootout hasn't been a big part of these discussions thus far, and I'm right with ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell when he says, "I am a proponent of exploring formats (e.g., four on four) that may reduce ties; however, I am not a proponent of determining the outcome of games via shootouts."

But I would extend it further. If two goaltenders go out and stop every shot put on them for 65 minutes in the regular season, I don't like the idea of one of them going home a loser. Obviously, in the playoffs, the Beanpot, and the Great Lakes Invitational, you play until someone wins, but in the regular season, if you shut out your opponent during the actual game, then you should not be forced to take a loss based on some altered version of the game you just played. If you can keep your opponent from scoring for 65 minutes, you deserve at least one point. Bottom line.

And I would think that it's pretty obvious that we can't just give an exception to 0-0 games, so to preserve justice in a case like this, I would favor keeping ties across the board.

Frankly, I never realized ties were a problem. It's part of the game, and I don't see any reason to mess with them. I don't think it has any effect whatsoever on fans' ability to love a sport (I don't see ties causing problems with soccer fans).

In the end, though, I guess I'll be happy as long as we don't get shootouts.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 09:38 PM on January 31, 2008

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