NHL 3 on 3 Explodes, And The Death Of HS Hockey In Richfield

EVELETH… The National Hockey League held it’s almost annual All Star Gala over the weekend in Nashville and I have to say that the Predators, the local community and the league combined to put on perhaps the best All Star weekend in it’s history. Between the spotlight on the players, the game, and the fans, this weekend will be the gold standard for some time. Kudos to the NHL. It is no secret that the game had become stale for years and the reasons are many fold. With no defense or body checking (for fear of injury in a meaningless game) it was a goalie’s nightmare of a tilt rendering them into human targets for flying black disks.

The players weren’t really pushing the issue, the fans picked up on that and fan apathy was growing. The league noticed this and decided to add some zip back into it. They came up with the idea to set up a mini-tourney based upon the rules now used in the new 3 on 3 Overtime format. It turned out to be a fantastic afternoon and spectacle. There was one period featuring the two divisions from the Eastern Conference facing each other in two ten minute battles and likewise for the West. After the Semifinals were decided the East and West went at it for a Championship period (two-10 minutes again) with the West/Pacific versus the East/Atlantic.

In Semi 1, the Atlantic beat the Metropolitan 4-3, and in Semi 2 the Pacific beat the Central  9-6 in a score fest. After two periods and 22 goals the Pacific beat the Atlantic 1-0 for the win and for the $1mil prize to be divided amongst the 11 players on the Pacific winners. Big John Scott from the Pacific got 2 goals and won the MVP award. I’ll not get into the entire controversy surrounding his selection into the ASG, but I will say good for him. I saw John play for Michigan Tech, I remember his time with the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks and all I can say is that like most men who perform the job he does in the NHL, he is one of the nicest guys you could meet, doing a very difficult job. I’ll stop there, count me as a fan John.

What I wanted to discuss this week is that with the ASG converting to the 3 on 3 format, there was a lot of discussion about it in the weeks leading up to the game. As I have stated prior, I was skeptical about this before the season began. I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t head over heels about the shootout now being used as a tiebreaker in the league, but as a kid who witnessed the Minnesota NorthStars play to an astounding 334 regular season ties in their tenure here, I was just happy to see a conclusion to a game just played. Somewhere along the line the ensuing 4 on 4 OT play got just as defensive as regulation play had, and as predictable too. But some of the shootouts were pretty exciting. In December of 2014 the Panthers and Capitals played a 20 round shootout. No one in that arena was sitting down.

But now that we are 4 months into the 3 on 3, it has been exciting and has served it’s purpose of cutting down on games that go to the shootout. Some commentary here, one NHL coach said that the 3 on 3 format is “un-coachable”. Another said that “give NHL coaches a season with it and they will dumb it down beyond belief”. The chap that claimed it to be beyond strategizing did finish his quote by saying that it was all about skill players and finishers. Add to that total puck possession, recognizing that the blueline is non-existent excepting for zone entries and that at times your net minder is going to have to do some puck retrieval and head-manning and you might be on your way to success. Goalies accounted for 3 assists in today’s ASG.

How do the Wild stack up? Well, “finishers” are in short supply on the club which might explain why they are 1-9 in the OT/SO frame. After 49 tilts there are but 5 players in double digits for goals, two of them, just barely. The rest of the roster when it comes to lighting the lamp are nothing short of challenged. If they can barely light it up in regulation, you can’t expect differently in the OT/SO periods. The bad news coming off the AS break is that the team isn’t scoring, there is no one with the Iowa Wild to call up that can change that, and in the future pipeline? Not that great either. The expectations for the team have gone from bright to dim. With 33 games left, can anybody turn the lights back on?

AS YOU MAY ALREADY KNOW, the Richfield High School Boys Hockey team
has disbanded and that is probably for good. There were no other schools in the area to co-op with and with only 10 players out for the team they had to shut it down. With some changing social and economic dynamics in the Metropolitan area, this isn’t an unusual occurrence, but is sad nonetheless. As a huge fan of the game at all levels this is disappointing. My brothers former boss has a son who is an alumni of the team and I can remember the first High School hockey game I ever saw was a Richfield-Edina tilt at the then new Braemar Arena in Edina.

Childhood neighbor and family friend, Minnesota Vikings legendary trainer Fred Zamberletti was enlisted to be the on-site trainer at Braemar for a HS hockey doubleheader and asked if I wanted to go along to handle the trainers medical kit. So off we went. The arena was packed as this was probably the hottest Lake Conference rivalry going at the time. The action was intense and very fast. We had to go out on the ice in the 2nd period when a Richfield player was knocked out. We slid out there and I popped the bag open and handed Freddie two smelling salts. The kid came to and we helped him to the locker room for an exam. The Spartans were one of the premier HS teams of that era, this event calls for a moment of silence and a recollection of many great memories…. PEACE