Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and said those saying 3-on-3 isn’t real hockey should drop it. Bettman also said fans shouldn’t expect a play-in game for wild-card spots or Eastern teams shifting to the West to balance conferences.
While the majority of fans seem to be in favor of 3-on-3 overtime and the effect it has had on games, the same can’t be said for the players. Complaints have lessened as the season has worn on, but we’ve heard some gripes about the overtime format from Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien this season, the latter of whom said it isn’t hockey.
“It’s terrible. It’s a terrible part of hockey. It’s not hockey,” Byfuglien told the Winnipeg Free Press’ Tim Campbell in October. He added he would have preferred it if the league kept 4-on-4.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, however, has a strong message for those who don’t like 3-on-3 and think it isn’t real hockey. “Shut up,” Bettman said, according NESN’s Nick Goss, at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “Don’t complain. Why would you demean your own product?”
Even without Bettman’s stern wording, it’s obvious that 3-on-3 is here to stay. The format has been successful — Bettman said roughly 60 percent of games that go to 3-on-3 are ending in overtime — and the format has grabbed the attention of viewers. So much so, in fact, that 3-on-3 made its way to the All-Star Game and made the event all the more enjoyable.
The overtime format was only one of a number of topics Bettman touched on during his appearance at the analytics conference, though. Asked about expanding the playoffs to include a potential play-in game for one of the wild-card spots, Bettman said he has no interest in that, saying the idea didn’t make much sense to him.
As for expansion, Bettman was also asked about the bids by Las Vegas and Quebec City to join the league, and said the process is still ongoing amidst reports that Quebec City was out of the running.
“We have two applications, one from Quebec City and one from Las Vegas,” Bettman said, via Goss. “That’s exactly what we expected when we began the process, that those would be the two applications we’d have. And we’re doing our due diligence to evaluate what works, what doesn’t work, what’s good, what’s bad, the ownership group, the facility, the market and what makes sense for the league as a whole.”
Bettman added that if the league were to expand and add an Eastern Conference team, there should be no concern of current Eastern teams moving over to the West. Bettman specifically mentioned the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, two former Western teams, as clubs that should know they’re not heading back to the Western Conference.