Introduced This Week in Person to the Shootout, Count Me as a Fan

I have been watching hockey since I moved back from England in the second grade — some 15 years now — and I have been to dozens and dozens of NHL hockey games, but prior to this past Wednesday night, I had never seen a shootout in person. Sure I have seen them on T.V., and I have been in a hometown sweater in overtime in both Washington and Detroit, but the shootout was something I had never gotten to be a part of in person.

The Verizon Center was buzzing Wednesday night, which is nothing new this season, but it seemed to me to take on an extra special atmosphere after the 5-minute extra session. It was perhaps the loudest I have ever heard the Phone Booth, rivaling perhaps only the first game of last year’s playoffs. The Sea of Red was on its feet, in unison, and there wasn’t a single fan seemingly who wasn’t screaming encouragement for the home team at the top of his lungs.

The already riveting game culminated in the ultimate edge of your seat event. I know it’s controversial, and contrived, but it seems to me there’s no denying the drama angle of the shootout. On Wednesday night it seemed almost as if the NHL knew I had never seen one before, and that I needed to be introduced to it and marketed about it.

It took forever for the shootout to start — that wasn’t so dramatic. The crowd became restless and a low rumbling could be heard from the first row to the last.  Even the athletes were restless; Alex Semin couldn’t seem to sit still skating in circles endlessly.

Finally everything was set, and within five seconds Semin had lined up from behind the blue line and was effortlessly skating down the center of the ice. With his eyes on Carey Price and his stick on the puck Semin deked twice and shot it through the Canadien netminder’s pads.

The arena roared. No one was seated. The crowd was silenced quickly though in order to provide Theodore with the silence he needed to make his first save. When he stopped the hard-charging Hab the Sea of Red erupted into a tsunami of noise.

With almost no time to take in what had just happened Nicklas Backstrom stormed the center ice circle and immediately began bearing down the ice. Maybe it was his inexperience in shootouts, or maybe it was just Nick being Nick, but there were no fancy moves by Backstrom, no triple deke or anything like that. He simply took the puck and flicked a beautifully lethal shot past a stunned Price.

It looked like it was all over for the Canadians. The only thing left was for Theodore to make one more save. The now really rowdy home crowd was behind their goaltender. The shot hit Theodore in the chest and looked unsure of its final resting place. JT looked to the left saw the puck on the ice and threw his hands in the air. The game was over and the Capitals had prevailed again.

Crowd noise surged again to the rafters — up in the press box we could actually hear it bounce off Verizon’s roof. Truthfully, I had difficulty containing my excitement in the press box. As a journalist you invest so much into your topic there is sometimes no way to not feel emotion. I am supposed to be unbiased, but this shootout and its verdict made me both excited and happy. I experienced shivers of excitement as I walked down the hallway to the press elevator. The shootout was a new and novel in my lifetime event for me. I had officially seen everything other than the Stanley Cup presentation. The shootout was something that made even me, an otherwise traditional hockey fan, crack a wide and lasting smile.

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11 Responses to Introduced This Week in Person to the Shootout, Count Me as a Fan

  1. You ain’t kidding; heck, we went to a shootout in my beer league game last night; a full 3/4’s of the crowd in the stands (ok, eight people, mostly spouses) were on their feet as our game went to a shootout.
    Unfortunately, we lost just before my turn came up. I was all set to pull of my Marek Malik move, too. Curses!

  2. Chis says:

    UGH! The shootout is the antithesis of a team sport. I hate it. They don’t use it in the playoffs for a reason and the minute they do I stop watching.

  3. Eric says:

    Meh. I do not like the use of shootouts to decide contests in any sport. Hockey is a true team game. Even with the greatest player in the world, our beloved Caps need the best team to win games and hopefully a Stanley Cup. Ovie cannot do it by himself. Deciding games via shootouts does not support this. It basically says, who cares about team, let’s decide games one-on-one. Who cares about the important contributions by guys like Gordon, Bradley, Laich, and Fehr who will never end up on Boudreau’s shootout list (unless the shootout goes beyond the first 3 rounds)? Heck, you could even add other more offensively talented defencemen to that list like, Mike Green. I would rather see an extra 4-on-4 or 5-on-5, 10 minute period. If you are still tied at the end, both teams get a point. Winning teams are given 2 points and losing teams no points. That said, it is pretty cool to watch some of the more skilled players work their magic without being hacked, whacked, and hauled down from behind.

  4. pucksandbooks says:

    @ Eric, for this perceptive observation: “That said, it is pretty cool to watch some of the more skilled players work their magic without being hacked, whacked, and hauled down from behind.”
    Wouldn’t you agree that about 75 percent of the time, when the world’s best bear down for a showdown with opposing goalies, they get felonied by opposing defenders? Merely from this vantage, the shootout does offer us special moments of undiluted skill exhibition.

  5. Grooven says:

    Goals in a shootout, in my opinion, are nowhere near as uplifting, or devastating, as a goal in overtime.

  6. Eric says:

    Yes, it is cool to see the wiry Semin work his magic unabated, but it’s still no way to decide a game. Why not take it all the way and just have a weekly all-star skills competition? You could have 10 teams of about 3 or 4 players plus a goalie. The players could run through the various events for points and decide a winning team for the week at the end. How boring.
    The game of hockey has so many other interesting and important skills that are required for a team to win. Deciding contests with the shootout ignores that.

  7. Sasky says:

    Ahh So you were at the game Wednesday? IN the Pbox. I’m one of the Caps Interns that’s up around there.
    I saw my first shoot out a month or two back in toronto, Jason Blake’s spin-a-rama against the Devils to win it.

  8. Sasky says:

    We have to go downstairs with about 5 minutes left, so both the game tying goal, OT and the Shoot out, were watched via the video screens down there. You can feel the whole place shake though when a goals scored, when the games won. The walls vibrate and it echoes down the corridor.

  9. Caps Kremlin says:

    The shootout is, simply put, the worst way to end a professional sporting event. Imagine if NBA games in OT were decided by a dunk competition? I will admit though, the shootout is pretty exciting to watch but it’s a love em when you win em, hate em win you lose em thing and the Capitals all too frequently lose em.

  10. MulletMan says:

    I’m guessing that many of you don’t remember a few years back. Teams would play the last two or three minutes of the game looking to keep the tie. OT would be a shutdown game because both teams wanted to keep the 1 point instead of playing for the win. Some teams felt it was better to earn one point for the game instead of gaining nothing after 60 minutes and earning nothing.
    IMO, once the shootout was implemented, the OT period opened up and teams would take more risks. Both teams had already earned one point so why not go all out for the additional point.
    I like the SO. We, the fans, would never have seen a play like Malik’s between the legs goal if it was not for the SO. It lets the players be more creative and it forces other players to develop skills that would normally not be used in a game situation.

  11. this space for rent says:

    At the risk of making myself unpopular – I notice that a lot of longtime hockey fans of all teams want the sport to be more popular and get more attention, and then turn around and complain bitterly about the NHL’s every effort to do just that. So I ask the crowd at large – do you have better ideas? Instead of complaining, talk about what you would do differently and why you think your idea will make the sport more interesting to the casual fan.

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