Concerned by the number of games that end in ties, the National Hockey League has adopted a 5-minute, sudden-death overtime period for use next season. Playoff games, of course, have regularly been played out until a winner is determined, but too often during the regular season teams will play conservatively in the final minutes, willing to settle for a tie rather than risk defeat. With a win worth two points in the standings, a tie one, and a loss nothing, is it any wonder there were 142 deadlocked games during the 1979- 80 NHL campaign?
The new rule should lessen the number of tie games, yet it doesn't seem to go far enough in stimualting the kind of excitement the league wants to encourage. For if the overtime is completed with the teams still tied, the game ends there. There's still a strong possibility, therefore, that play in the extra stanza will place the emphasis on defense. If, on the other hand, every game had to be played until a victory was secured, teams would obviously step up their attack in the hope of quickly deciding the outcome.
The objection to an indefinite overtime situation is that long-running games could create problems in making flights during the regular season. They could also take their toll physically.