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League's board of governors looks to reduce number of shootouts, add a little fun to nameplates in February
ECHL players will be working more overtime next season.
The league’s summer board of governors meetings were held in Las Vegas last week, and the most notable announcement coming out of the gathering was that the board voted to extend overtime periods from five to seven minutes for regular-season games, with the three-on-three, sudden-death format being maintained.
If nobody scored in overtime, the game will proceed to a shootout.
The league’s press release on the matter didn’t state it, but the motive of the move is clear, to reduce the number of games decided by shootouts.
Just about 200 games went into overtime in the ECHL in the 2018-19 regular season, with 78 of them advancing to shootouts. Assuming the number of extra-time games remains about the same and figuring that two additional minutes of OT represents a 40 per cent increase from the five-minute bonus frame in place last season, it could mean 30 or more games not going to shootouts.
Maybe even more, given more three-on-three, back-and-forth play time should translate into legs that are increasingly tired and therefore more giveaways producing scoring chances.
For the record, the Newfoundland Growlers played 15 extra-time games during their inaugural ECHL season, with eight of them settled in regular OT and the other seven going to shootout.
The Growlers were 4-4 in normal overtime and 3-4 in shootouts.
Even taken into account the ramifications of the overtime announcement, the most interesting news to come out of ECHL board meetings was that the league will have a “players month” during the 2019-20 season.
During February, players will be given the opportunity to wear nicknames on their jersey nameplates for a select home game.
Given the rather humdrum awarding of nicknames in hockey, mostly based on a player’s last names — O’Brien is “Obie”, Melindy is “Meller” and so on — let’s hope for something more creative. Let’s admit it, it would have been pretty neat if the policy had been in place in the days of the AHL’s St. John’s Maple Leafs and we could have seen Frank Bialowas with an “Animal” nameplate.
The Growlers may do well to look to broadcaster Brian Rogers when looking for monikers. One of Rogers’ better creations this past season was for Paramus, N.J., native J.J. Piccinich, whom he dubbed “Jersey Boy.”
There was one more noteworthy announcement out of the board of governors meeting.
That was the amendment to requirements for players on NHL and AHL contracts to be eligible for the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs.
The change calls for a “veteran” player on an NHL or AHL deal to have played a minimum of five games in the AHL during the regular season in order to be able to participate in the ECHL post-season.
Simply put, a “veteran” player is a forward who has played 260 or more games in higher-level leagues before the start of the current season. The rule, for example, would not apply to players on entry-level NHL contracts, for players on AHL deals who are early in their pro careers, or for veteran players on straight ECHL contracts, like defencemen Adam Pardy and James Melindy were last season.
Almost every AHL-contracted player on the Growlers in 2018-19 wouldn’t have been subject to the rule, since most were in their first or second professional seasons. An exception was leading scorer and eventual Kelly Cup MVP Zach O’Brien.
O’Brien, signed to an AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies, appeared in three games with the Marlies last season and was eligible to compete for the Growlers in the 2019 playoffs. But the three games wouldn’t reach the new threshold that’s been established.