Sunday afternoon the Southern Professional Hockey League played one of the strangest “games” you’ll ever hear about between the visiting Evansville Thunderbolts, and the Fayetteville Marksmen.
In case you missed our posts over on Twitter about it yesterday, the two teams played one period and were tied 1-1. That’s when the ice resurfacing machine in Fayetteville took a dump after partially resurfacing the ice. After about a 40 minute delay, and with the ice unplayable according to multiple people involved with the game, the two teams took to the ice to have a shootout at one end of the ice, which the Marksmen won, to claim a 2-1 victory in the standings.
Now, we at BLH, and a few others we’ve chatted about this “game” were a bit baffled that they decided a shootout after one period was the way to go about deciding it, but really, the more we’ve thought about it we’ve come to realize: There were no other options that would have satisfied both teams, while also being fair to them and the league. So let’s run down some of the other options the league likely considered before deciding a game-ending shootout was the way to go, and why they wouldn’t have worked.
Cancel the game, no makeup date
Absolutely can’t do this. This isn’t the FPHL where not every team plays the same number of games and they base the standings on the percentage of points won rather than points alone. Heading into yesterday, the Marksmen were just one point back of first, and just three points ahead of the team in third, so these were crucial points on the line, for both teams. What happens if the season ends, the Marksmen played 55 games, and lost out on either first or second place because of one game that wasn’t played or finished? They, and the Thunderbolts who were five points back of home-ice in the first round as of Sunday, would be PISSED if their playoff seeding took at hit without them having that chance to improve it. So just outright cancelling the game with no plans to make it up or for the teams to get those potential points back was probably the last option.
Reschedule for a future date
Almost impossible for a couple reasons. First, these two teams are 14 hours apart, so this isn’t some quick-turnaround like say a Birmingham-Huntsville series where you could play, hop on the bus, and be home later that night if you wanted to have the game on an open Sunday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Second, this was Evansville’s only trip to Fayetteville this season, so no chance they’re going back 14 hours to play one game. About the only option would be when Evansville ventures to Roanoke on March 27 and 28, MAYBE they can swing down to Fayetteville and play the game that Sunday…but the Marksmen are in Quad City that same weekend, so the exact opposite of where they need to be if they wanted to play a Sunday game. So not possible to figure out a makeup date, unless you wanted something like a neutral site game in the middle. On a week night. That like 9 people would be at. No thanks.
Continue to play on the bad ice
No. Yes, you probably technically could continue to play on the ice without resurfacing, but after one period of pro hockey, the ice is a disaster already. So now add another 40 minutes of that and you’re risking tons of injury possibilities because of ruts and cuts in the ice, or a blade possibly hitting the cooling system or surface beneath the ice. Not to mention how had the play would get because of the trouble they would have skating, passing, and shooting on the bad ice. This isn’t men’s league where you’re out there to work out a sweat and play 15 minute run-clock periods, the ice needs to be re-done after each period, so to even think they could play on it is insane and dangerous. Probably the worst option that you could consider.
18 on 18 fight, last man standing gets the extra point
As hilarious and awesome as this would be, I’m pretty sure the SPHL would get sued to no end if all 18 players on each team had to partner up like WWE Survivor Series, and hope that they’re the last person on the ice to secure the extra point. This seems like something the Fed would do, and we hope they read this and seriously consider it in the future.
Just call it a tie
People hated ties so much that they went and added the shootout so there wouldn’t be anymore. Initially, this was our thought for what it should have been, due to a couple of reasons. First, they only played one period, less than half the game, so to crown a winner of that game is a bit of a stretch. Baseball doesn’t give the game to the team ahead after 3 innings if it rains, and hockey shouldn’t in this instance either. Second, while it’s probably the most fair to all the teams in the league, it was 1-1 at the time, so both Fayetteville and Evansville would get a point in the standings, the game goes in the books and we all move on…there’s no tie category in the SPHL standings, so it would be a mess trying re-configure that, plus the stats in the league. And finally, there’s the human element in it, teams want to win, and the shootout decides just that. Sure it probably wasn’t intended to do so after 1 period, but it’s there so why not use it in this case.
Yes, the other teams in the league are likely upset that both teams ended up getting points from a one period game, and that Fayetteville got an extra one for a coin flip contest on chewed up ice, but in the end, there really were no better options. It was a no-win situation for the league no matter what, but having the game finish with a winner is really the only thing they could have done.