FHL team tweaks OT rules, will hold shootout before home games

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When Scott Brand came up with the idea for hybrid icing while working as the USHL’s Director of Hockey Operations in 2007, he had a pretty good feeling that the rule change would stick and even catch on in other levels of hockey. (The NHL adopted it in 2013-14.)

His latest idea has him in wait-and-see mode.

This week the Federal Hockey League’s Carolina Thunderbirds announced that after league approval they will be testing out a unique way to decide home games that end in a tie after overtime. Standard procedure would have the teams, still tied after a 3-on-3 overtime period, go to a shootout. But Brand wants to bring a little excitement to the pre-game activities.

Beginning with Friday’s game against the Port Huron Prowlers, a five-player shootout will take place before the puck drops for the first period. If the score remains tied after overtime, the winner of the pre-game shootout will get the victory and extra point.

“The overtime period of 3-on-3, think of how much more exciting that’s going to be because one team knows they have to win,” Brand, the team’s president and general manager, told Pro Hockey Talk on Thursday. “It doesn’t hurt to try stuff.”

All eligible skaters must participate in the shootout before be able to go again. Brand is hoping that that leads to a few Marek Malik moments where the unheralded sixth defenseman gets a chance to win the game — maybe not with a trick shot like the New York Rangers blue liner did back in 2005.

“I love hockey. I think hockey’s the greatest sport,” he said. “How do I get people in my building so I can have them fall in love with it?”

The Thunderbirds had one shootout all of last season and it came away from their rink. As a way to attract more fans to games and bring a little excitement early on, Brand presented the FHL with the idea at the end of last season. The idea didn’t catch on league-wide, but the team was told they could try it out during their home games. The plan is to test it out for the rest of the season.

The Thunderbirds have eight home games between now and the end of December and there will be plenty of feedback wanted from the fans and players. Brand believes by the new year they’ll have a real good feel on whether the idea has some legs.

“On January 1, I could wake up and we could all be like ‘This was really a stupid experiment. What the hell were we thinking?,'” he said. “Or we could wake up and say this was entertaining, or nobody really has any feelings towards it so why change what we’ve got.”

The shootout is already a polarizing event in hockey, but for Brand and his market in Winston-Salem, North Carolina — a.k.a. NASCAR country — it’s about attracting new fans and adding some entertainment to the overall game presentation.

“People are going to come. They’re either going to hate it, which is fine, [or love it]” he said. “But if it gains the excitement, what’s the harm? What are we doing that’s harmful?”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.