IIHF Tournaments Should not be Decided by Shootouts

Henrik Lundqvist
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There were many Canadian hockey fans who were disappointed on Sunday, following Sweden’s victory at the World Championships. This was because for the second big IIHF tournament in a row, Canada had lost the gold medal game in a shootout.  The first having been a 5-4 shootout loss to the US at the World Junior Championships in January. The problem isn’t that Canada lost, but rather how the shootout killed the momentum of the game. It’s time shootouts be removed from elimination games in IIHF Tournaments.

This isn’t only because Canada lost,  they have won some in the past as well such as the 2007 World Juniors. Jonathan Toews scored three goals in the shootout to beat the Americans to advance to the Finals. The fact that the format allows a player like Toews to continue to shoot multiple times also individualizes the contest, of what is a team game with 22 man rosters (dressed in an IIHF game).

IIHF Tournaments Should not be Decided by Shootouts

The NHL doesn’t use shootouts after a first overtime in the playoffs, and with good reason. The momentum gained in an overtime period can prove to be beneficial to a team in the next period. It also allows for a team to win as a team. Whereas the shootout is an individual player who goes up against the goalie. It no longer has anything to do with hockey being a team sport.  That’s not to say shootouts aren’t useful in round robin play, as it allows fans to see a skill competition that can be very interesting. However, with so much pressure on the line in a elimination round there are better ways to find a winner.

Sudden Death Overtime

The IIHF should consider the same overtime format as the NHL for it’s playoff rounds. Much like the NHL,  the IIHF has the two nations play a 20-minute first overtime period.  If it goes past one period, instead of continuing to find a winner, they go straight to a shootout. Many fans have stated that shootouts in big important games destroys the excitement of the sudden death overtime.

In the NHL, the sudden death overtime leaves fans on the edge of their seats for long periods at a time.  While, the shootout just gives the impression that there will be a champion through a skills competition. This isn’t how hockey is supposed to be played in order to find a winner.  Sudden Death would keep the fans enjoying the game for a longer period of time. However, sometimes it can become dreadful if it passes a few overtimes. Therefore, other options could be needed.

4-on-4 Overtime Format

If the IIHF doesn’t want their sudden death overtimes to last for more than 20 minutes. They could consider playing sudden death 4-on-4 hockey in order to give the teams more room. 4-on-4 has never been used for longer than five minutes, however with the extra room the players can create better scoring chances.

It also brings as much if not more excitement to the fans watching the teams dash on the ice. In an International Tournament, it will allow players to show what they can do with more space to maneuver across the ice. It likely won’t last longer than 20 minutes either so if the IIHF wants games to end earlier than it will get its wish.  If the game isn’t decided after 20 there can be the option of playing sudden death 3-on-3 hockey.

3-on-3 Sudden Death Overtime

While, 4-on-4 Overtime allows for more speed and room to maneuver with the puck.  3-on-3 allows for even more of that.  In the NHL, it has proven to be a success in reducing the number of shootouts around the league.  It has also brought the fans much enjoyment as it gives each team a fair chance to win.

However, some people don’t like this format as one slip up in the offensive zone could cost a team the game by allowing a player to go on a breakaway. This happens often in the NHL. However, the IIHF tournaments should consider it for the excitement it could bring to the end of a game. If after a 4-on-4 20 minute period there is still no score, then the 3-on-3 will find a winner fast.

The only issue is that in the tournaments held in Europe, they are bigger Olympic size rinks that the players skate on. This will make 3-on-3 hockey very hard to play in that case. If the IIHF decides to make separate rules regarding overtime for North America and Europe this could be a great format to use instead of the shootout.

However, this is all very unlikely to happen, and the IIHF will continue to use shootouts in gold and bronze medal games.


COLOGNE, GERMANY – MAY 21: #35 Goalie Henrik Lundqvist (SWE) celebrates the win during the Ice Hockey World Championship Gold medal game between Canada and Sweden at Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany, on May 21, 2017. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)