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NHL GMs back idea of going to 3-on-3 overtime

Sandra Harwitt
Associated Press

Boca Raton, Fla. — Three-on-three overtime is getting a nod from NHL general managers, although a format decision and final approval are still needed.

General managers agreed to recommend some type of three-on-three beginning next season. But they are still debating whether to add time to the extra session like the Swedish Hockey League or begin overtime three-on-three instead of four-on-four like the American Hockey League.

The recommendations will go to the joint NHL/NHLPA competition committee, which meets in June and must approve any rule changes.

That committee also will consider the other recommendation from general managers of instituting a coach’s challenge system for goaltender interference and a change in faceoffs, where defensemen will put their sticks down first before the puck is dropped.

The AHL increased overtime play to seven minutes, starting out with four-on-four play until the first whistle after three minutes of play. The remainder of the overtime is then played as three-on-three.

While the NHL understands shootouts are popular with fans, the league would like more games going beyond regulation to be decided in overtime.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who confirmed the general managers were unified in switching to either the Swedish Hockey League or AHL overtime format, acknowledged shootouts are here to stay.

“The consensus in the room, overwhelmingly, is we’re not getting rid of the shootout,” Bettman said. “It was how do you reduce the number of games that go to the shootout, keep the shootout special.

“We’re going to discuss with the competition committee because, obviously, we want the players’ association input on how we’re going to approach it.”

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, a vocal proponent for an overtime overhaul, has no doubt a new rule will finally take hold.

“We’re going to take it to the competition committee, basically see what the players feel about it,” he said. “But we’re going to make a change.”

As for goaltender interference, if the coach challenge is incorrect, he’ll lose his timeout.

Officials on the ice as well and in the NHL situation room in Toronto will view video to determine if there was a better call to be made. There will be no penalty component to the coach’s challenge.

“We ultimately concluded that we had to do something on goaltender interference that was different because it’s a judgment call,” Bettman said. “We would show video in this (meeting) room and 17 managers would think it was goaltender interference and 13 would say it wasn’t and the level of conclusiveness if you were going to create a standard was so narrow that there would be one or two instances that you could review.”

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon’s been pushing for a coach’s challenge rule for years and was happy the issue finally received traction.

“It’s about time,” he said. “I got voted down 28-2 four years ago and today it was 29-1 in favor.”