Overtime, shootout or elimination? What's the standard?

A coach asks Our Game's experts what the standard is when it comes to settling tie games during tournaments.

A coach asks Our Game's experts for their thoughts on tournament regulations

Have a question about minor hockey? Ask the Experts.

Our Game senior writer, coach and player Kristina Rutherford is tackling your questions them with the help of hockey experts from across the country.

To Ask the Experts, send your questions to kristina.rutherford@cbc.ca, and we'll field them as they come in.

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Now for today's question.

Q: "I have a question regarding tournament finals.

"During our last minor hockey tournament we had a situation involving two teams in the final game of a bantam tournament. After regular time the teams were still even, so tournament rules stated each team was to pick five players to play for the next two minutes to try and resolve the tie.  Still tied after extra session #1. So they took one of the five players from the ice and played with four on four for two minutes. Still tied after extra session #2.  So they took one of the four players from the ice and played with three on three for two minutes. You can see where this is going...down to one on one if all else fails. 

"It ended after the two on two. My point is that the same players played until the game was resolved. One mother who is a registered nurse complained that the rules need to be adjusted to give the 'good' players a break between extra sessions.How about the other players on the bench that watch for the better part of an hour until 'their' game was resolved? 

"I played a lot of hockey from notice to junior and I never finished a game this way that I can recall. I know that when a tournament has multiple finals on one day and teams are from other provinces, it's hard to go beyond the scheduled time, but this game went an extra 45 minutes anyway. Where did this strategy save any time but to allow a few select players the added pleasure of being singled out as 'better?'   

"I want to know, is this the standard across Canada? When I mentioned that we take a different approach for our next tournament, I may as well had three heads, one leg and never played hockey before. I was definitely fighting an uphill skate. 

"Any thoughts or information welcomed." Darren Llewellyn, coach and league technical director, Moncton, N.B.

A: Darren, the short answer here is there is no standard. I looked at tourneys in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Calgary and B.C. to get an idea of whether some provinces favour some formats, and I didn't find any evidence of that.

It's up to the people running the tournament to determine how they want to decide those tie games, and often the veterans involved in tourneys will tell you the best way is the fastest way. Nobody wants to be in a tournament that's two games behind because of a few overtime games, whether they're exciting or not.   

I also asked Our Game expert Ken Wolff for his two cents on this, since he's organized a lot of tourneys as the president of the Mississauga Terriers of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. Here's what Ken had to say: 

"Wow, in spite of the legitimate concerns you have written about, that must have been quite a game to watch!  I remember one year when my son was in a big knock-out tournament and the deciding factor was a shootout.  Another time it was play until someone scores.  My point is there is no one right way of deciding who wins.

"I help run a small tournament during the Thanksgiving weekend. Since I've been involved with the tournament I've discovered that one of the most important ingredients of any successful tournament is to be on schedule. Parents hate to arrive and find out the games are late.  I learned that the hard way, by the second day I was hiding form the angry people who were not exactly kind in their comments.

"Another problem is that the tournament buys only a certain amount of ice. At our tournament another league takes over at 6 p.m. on the last day. That means all games have to be completed after a certain amount of time. Shootouts are the way many tournaments go because the extra amount of time is limited. 

"At the tournament I'm with, we're old fashioned hockey guys who hate the idea of the shootout, but we're afraid of the play until you win scenario. One year a game went into two overtime periods, which destroyed our schedule. So after much discussion we now use the same format you described.  I hadn't thought of this situation where the kids play all of the time, so we might have to change the rules to make sure that doesn't happen. Thanks for that.

"I hope this helps." 

Have a question of your own? Send it, along with your name and hometown, tokristina.rutherford@cbc.ca.