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Overtime hockey playoff excitement sparks pleas for regular season use

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The abruptly aroused speaker was Herb Brooks, the bright young coach of the New York Rangers, who had been asked if he thought the National Hockey League should play overtime during the regular season as well as in the playoffs.

''Overtime is the most exciting thing hockey has,'' he said, his voice rising like a high slap shot. ''It's a great spectacle. Look what it's done for pro football. Basketball and baseball already had it.

''There are too many ties in our league. I know I'm just a rookie coach, but I don't buy that business about playing for a tie on the road. Everybody plays 40 games at home and 40 away. I'm all for a 10-minute overtime.''

This from a man whose Rangers had just lost an important Stanley Cup playoff game last week to the archrival New York Islanders - in overtime!

The playoffs, with their inevitable excruciating, sudden-death denouements every so often, remind us what we miss throughout the previous seven months. It can be argued that the playoffs are all the more exciting because overtime gives them a unique dimension, but I would rather suggest that the NHL's season-long followers deserve to see a lot more games come to a conclusion.

I don't know if a tie is worse than kissing your sister, as the college football fraternity has long maintained, because I never had a sister. I do know it is worse than a good movie or any number of other entertainments.

The NHL originally let games expire in ties out of a reasonable necessity: train schedules were limited during the war. Transportation since has gone modern, but the league hasn't.

The issue of a five-minute overtime came up in collective bargaining between players and management last year, and the players killed it. They reportedly are not all that opposed to the idea, but want to keep a bit of leverage in reserve for future negotiations.

Such is the tenor of latter day sports, in which the really big games are played out at the conference table.

It is generally agreed that some sort of time frame would be needed for regular season overtimes - as opposed to the playoffs when they go on indefinitely until one team scores - so the question arises how effective such limited sessions would be as tiebreakers.


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