This is a clock

Long games someday could be cut short



The goal woke me up.

I did the best I could, better than I've done for most Stanley Cup Finals games in recent years. Put another way, I watched a lot of this game. Toward the end of the third period my eyes got heavy. By the time NBC's intermission panel got to work, knowing those guys would put me to sleep anyway, I was out.

I was alert enough to notice my clock turning 1 as NBC's broadcast signed off.

Hockey fans surely are glorifying Game 1, a triple-overtime Chicago win over Boston. Fans love to reminisce about certain playoff marathons: Pat Lafontaine's winner on Easter morning in '87, Keith Primeau's goal against Pittsburgh in a fifth overtime, even Brett Hull's Cup-clincher here in Buffalo. But how many fans actually were watching these goals as they happened?

I think fans, and I am one, like to brag a little about having stayed with a game that goes super-late. I made it, I'm a true fan, like that. Further, these super-late games are part of the sport's lore, something other sports don't offer nearly as often.

I'm not offering an objection to these multiple-overtime games per se. Instead, merely an observation that in this television-centric sports world a league allowing for 1 a.m. finishes as often as hockey produces them is a little surprising.

Think about all the ways TV has changed sports over the years, starting with when games start. Then consider how desperate the NHL, a ratings-challenged league, might be for any advantage.

Granted, hockey ratings have been good this spring -- well, good for hockey anyway. Heck, with Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles as its final four teams the ratings had better be good.

I just wonder if someday the NHL would put a wrap on playoff games after, say, one overtime period. They could even do it after two, before the East Coast is into single-digits on the clock. Sure, tradition will be compromised, but that's always what happens.

The shootout -- cringe! -- has become a part of NHL hockey. Vocal fans, probably most of the ones that make it to 1 a.m. for these things, would protest. The rest of us might like going to bed knowing who won.

Shootouts in the playoffs: Think we'll ever see the day?

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People : Brett HullKeith PrimeauPat Lafontaine