Effects of Overtime Rules in Professional Hockey

NFL Overtime Rule

The NFL has passed a new rule changing the overtime arrangement exclusively for the playoffs. The plan passed through the owners rather contentedly with a 28-4 vote. This new-fangled format will promise the team that kicks off to begin overtime a possession if they clutch their opponent to a field goal on the first possession. If however the receiving team scores a touchdown the game is finished. You cannot deny that this is evidently an improvement to the overtime rule that was in position, but together the rule is far from perfect. Additionally, to prevent any unfair advantage coming from the coin flip no team will be permissible to go for it on fourth down within their own 40 yard line (New York Times 5). This scheme may seem somewhat chaotic at first glance, but as affirmed earlier basically all new creations will. It may seem frantic to the eye, but when appraising the system it is a fair way to make your mind up on the outcome of these tight games that will be dangerous to both parties concerned (Fort & James 2).

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The growth in popularity of the NFL began in the 1960s, and many tie the increase in fan interest to the legendary overtime championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts in 1958. The NFL added the Baltimore Colts in 1953 and but did not expand again until 1960. In that year a new American Football League appeared, and with its successful television contract, this expansion league was a real threat to the NFL. Eventually the NFL absorbed the AFL. The combined or merged NFL added the New Orleans Saints in 1967 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks in 1976 (“The Great Overtime Debate” 2). It did not expand again until the mid-1990s when the Carolina Cougars and Jacksonville Jaguars joined the league. In 1995 both the Raiders and the Rams left the Los Angeles market (Easton & Rockerbie, 45). As of this writing, the NFL still has not returned to Los Angeles, but the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills have used the threat of moving to this market to receive subsidies from the states of Washington and New York. After the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996, the NFL agreed to provide a replacement team in Cleveland. The new Cleveland Browns will begin play in a new stadium in 1999.

The motivation, and effects, of overtime rules have been studied in many investigations and reviews. The effect of unintentional consequences have been reviewed in the NHL’s rule change before the 1999-2000 season, altering the way teams were awarded points in overtime. Szymanski, (2009) finds that when the NHL altered the points awarded, the teams answered to these policies and changed their plans on the ice. When we look at football, Rosen and Wilson (2007) find that the ‘defense first’ strategy is favored in college football due to the arrangement (but would not be chosen in the NFL). Peterson (2004) finds an overtime bias in football, but Rosen, et al. (2007) find that this prejudice, from the coin flip, is ex-ante fair. This study continues this research to see if the overtime structure changes the plan of the game. We will look at the overtime structure’s affects on risky plays through a theory called bankruptcy behavior, or the act of risk shifting. Peterson (2004) shows how risk shifting can be illustrated in football. Woody Hayes, the legendary Ohio State University football coach known for grinding out yardage on the field, used to say that three things can happen when you bypass the ball, and two of them are bad. His attitude is sound in a close game; in that case it is best to play conventionally and avoid the danger of incompletion or interception. But if you’re down by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a traditional strategy will not get you back into the game quickly (Longley, et al., 5). In its place, you should throw a bomb; a long pass. True, the ball might be interrupted or fall incomplete, however if you were going to lose anyhow, the difficulty is not that bad. On the upside is the possibility of a big payoff; a touchdown. How does this equate to shareholders and bondholders? If it does look as if the organization will not be able to hide its compulsions and thus the equity claim is valueless, shareholders may fling the bomb, i.e., take on risky projects that have big payoffs but high likelihood of failure. If the project does be unsuccessful, bondholders lose, but the shareholders are not as good as since their claims were worthless at any rate. Nevertheless if the project succeeds, the shareholders will be the main beneficiaries. Although the ‘Hail Mary’ pass is commonly thought of as an example of this (Shmanske, et al. 2007), or a hockey team pulling the goalie, the last play of the game doesn’t give the entire picture. To gauge if this action is visible in the game, or if the overtime structure change the plan of the game, it will be more precious to see if this occurs all through the fourth quarter of play.

Formerly, the NFL has dealt with sudden death overtime, where the first team that scored will win the game come what may. With overtime games throughout the 2010 NFL Playoffs that put those overtime rules in prominence, the debate started about potentially altering those rules. The rule seems to be tailored towards getting the teams a turn in overtime periods (Rosen & Wilson, 12). The way that the latest NFL overtime rules work is if a team kicks only a field goal to score in overtime, the opposing team will have a possibility to perhaps tie the game or win it by themselves. Some time ago a field goal would bring victory for the first team, but some saw it as a straightforward case of the team winning the coin flip receiving a massive advantage. That was not always the case however, since many times the defense will clutch in overtime to provide the other team a possibility to score anyways (“The Great Overtime Debate” 2). At the present they have built in an indemnity policy to confirm that the coin flip does not decide anything solo in NFL Playoff overtime games.

As the rule only applies to the playoffs, it would be pleasant to see some steadiness in the rules. Teams surely will not like the idea of playing one way in the regular season and then change such a crucial rule when the playoffs come by. Some optimistic news is there have previously been discussions about increasing the rule to the regular season also at the next meetings in May. So in spite of the new overtime rule still being faulty, the NFL has definitely made the right move by taking a step in the right way towards a just system to make a decision an overtime winner. They have passed up further catastrophically unfair results in future playoff games.


It is not completely fair to say, as some detractors of the current system do, that these games boil down to just a coin toss. Perceptibly there is more to it than that – the team has to follow through and clock up points on the scoreboard. They could effortlessly go three and out and that might be that. But it is hard to dispute against giving each team an impartial opportunity to attain (“The Great Overtime Debate” 3). The coin toss that takes place at the start of the game simply decides who gets the ball first, however each team will still certainly have their turns at scoring. Why does that abruptly get altered in overtime?

There are without a doubt arguments out there that the present system is completely acceptable. Justification is an important part of the game and a number of fans say that if a team’s defense cannot stop the opposite team from launching a drive into the end zone, they are worthy of being given the loss. In spite of everything, it could have just as simply gone the other way. Unmistakably it is to a team’s difficulty to misplace the coin toss and have to deal with catastrophic consequences in case they fail, but supporters of defensive football claim that it is a genuine way to decide the game. The NCAA and the CFL work in the perfect way, according to followers of equal-opportunity overtime; every team is arranged an equal number of possessions ahead of the winner being determined. If, though the primary team to have the ball scores and the second team does not, it is game over. In case the first team does not score and the second team does, after that it is game over. However, if both teams score, they do it once more. Nevertheless is it common sense to have the first team score, say ‘Well, that is it!’ And just finish the game? A lot of people would say no.

Works Cited

Easton, S., & Rockerbie, D. Overtime! Rules and Incentives in the National Hockey League. Journal of Sports Economics, Vol6, 2005.

Fort, Rodney and James Quirk. Optimal Competitive Balance in a Season Ticket League Working Paper. 2009. Print.

Longley, Neil and Swaminathan Sankaran. The Incentive Effects of Overtime Rules in Professional Hockey. Journal of Sports Economics Vol. 8 No. 5, 2007. Print

N.F.L. Ponders Changing How Overtime Is Played. New York Times, Section D, Page 5. 2003. Print

Peterson, Ivan. ‘Football’s Overtime Bias’, Math Trek: 2004. Print

Rosen, Peter A. And Wilson, Rick L. “An Analysis of the Defense First Strategy in College Football Overtime Games,” Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports: Vol. 3, Is. 2, Article 1. 2007. Print

Shmanske, Stephen and Franklin Lowenthal Overtime Incentives in the National Hockey League (NHL) Journal Of Sports Economics, Vol. 8 No. 4, 2007. Print

Should the Outcome of a Coin Flip Mean So Much in NFL Overtime? Wall Street Journal Online, 2003.

Szymanski, Stefan. Competitive Balance In Sports Leagues And The Paradox Of Power Working Paper. 2009.

“The Great Overtime Debate,” Showtime Sports. 2009.

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