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Broadcast Blog: More Overtime, Please!

Tuesday, June 25th
Broadcast Blog: More Overtime, Please!

Hey there, Solar Bears fans. Jesse Liebman here. The crew has gotten back from Las Vegas, and now the really fun stuff begins. Our ticket department is off to an excellent start, and that should help make for a strong foundation for the coming year.

Not to mention, Opening Night (Oct. 12 vs. South Carolina) is already on sale; that is the earliest we’ve had tickets available to an individual game. Don’t have your tickets yet? Get them HERE.

Back to Las Vegas – every summer the league’s Board of Governors consider and/or vote on a number of changes designed to improve the on-ice product. A significant change revealed by Commissioner Crelin to us during league meetings was the news that the ECHL would adopt a seven-minute overtime period, effective for the start of the 2019-20 season, which was formally announced on Monday.

Previously, overtime in the regular season was a five-minute extra period. So what exactly is the rationale behind adding an additional 120 seconds?

Here’s part of the reason why this change occurred, and why I – and you too – should be excited for this change.

1) Overtime has been 3-on-3 in the ECHL – and for that matter, the NHL – since the 2015-16 season. Since then, the number of games decided in OT vs. the shootout in the ECHL have been:

  • 2015-16: 127 to 80
  • 2016-17: 128 to 64
  • 2017-18: 131 to 69
  • 2018-19: 123 to 78

It’s clear games are more likely to end in OT before reaching the shootout. It’s no secret that over the last few years, most if not all of the other major sports leagues in North America have investigated or experimented with shortening the length of time it takes to complete a game. The extension is designed to keep the pace of the game high from beginning to end.

2) 3-on-3 OT in hockey is like a perfect hybrid of basketball (where possession routinely ends with a shot) and soccer (where everyone on the field is typically involved in possession) and NASCAR (where there’s constant speed – and the occasional high-speed collision). I’m not a betting man, but considering all three of those sports are pretty popular down here in Orlando, I’d wager any first-time attendee at a Solar Bears game who witnesses an overtime game will be instantly hooked.

3) A shootout win does not count in standings tiebreakers – while a victory in the shootout gets your team the same two points as a win in regulation or OT, when it comes down to the end of the regular season, fewer shootout wins could be the difference between playing in April or hitting the golf course. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy the shootout. I’m not suggesting we go the John Tortorella route just yet.

However, at the end of the day, hockey is a team sport, so I would prefer that a game is decided in OT rather than through what amounts to an individual skills competition.

One note though: Bring back the spin-o-rama.

4) This past season, the Solar Bears set a new team record for the most overtime games (13). The team excelled in the 3-on-3 scenario and led the Eastern Conference with eight wins in OT, also a new team record. Additionally, four of those OT wins came on home ice, another Solar Bears single-season record. Personally, I’m hyped up to see more of this:

Here’s some other Solar Bears OT facts:

  • The first OT-winner – Nick Petersen, 0:42, Nov. 2, 2012 at Greenville, 4-3 win
  • The first OT-winner by a defenseman – Eric Baier, Feb. 14, 2016 vs. Elmira, 4-3 win
  • The fastest OT goal – Brett Findlay, 0:17, Dec. 19, 2014 at South Carolina, 3-2 win
  • The latest OT goal – Patrick Watling, 4:59, April 7, 2016 vs. Florida, 4-3 win
  • Most OT goals in a season – Mickey Lang, 3, 2013-14
  • Most OT wins in a season – 8, 2018-19
  • Fewest OT wins in a season – 1, 2016-17

What else is going on in Solar Bears land?

You know how hockey fans know they’re getting old? When the sons of former players they used to cheer for are starting to get drafted.

That was the case this past weekend in Vancouver, as three players with ties to the IHL Solar Bears were drafted by NHL clubs:

  • Jack Hughes (son of assistant coach Jim Hughes) was the No. 1 overall pick by the New Jersey Devils. Jack was born in Orlando, and is the first-ever Florida-born player to go No. 1 overall in the draft.
  • Alex Turcotte (son of Alfie Turcotte) went to the L.A. Kings with the fifth overall pick. Alfie Turcotte was a member of the inaugural 1995-96 team that went all the way to the Turner Cup Finals. The elder Turcotte finished fifth in team scoring that year with 69 points in 73 games.
  • Logan Neaton (son of Pat Neaton) was picked up by the Winnipeg Jets in the fifth round as the 144th pick. He was born in April of 1999, when Pat Neaton was in the last of his four seasons patrolling the ice for Orlando. Logan is a goaltender who has committed to UMass-Lowell for the upcoming season, and should the Jets maintain their affiliation with the Jacksonville Icemen for a few more years, it’s possible we could see Logan tending goal for Jacksonville in the future.

Roster Updates

As far as the ECHL Solar Bears go, head coach and general manager Drake Berehowsky has been hard at work recruiting from a wide array of talent pools, including last year’s roster. Although turnover is the nature of the beast in today’s ECHL, it wouldn’t shock me at all if this October’s training camp roster contains the largest contingent of returning players in team history. Contracts are starting to come in, and as they gain league approval, we should expect to see some announcements in the coming weeks.

I occasionally get asked this question from fans who swing by my broadcast perch on the club level during warmups: why does Drake function as both the head coach and the GM?

While the roles of head coach and GM are typically separated at the NHL and AHL levels, the reality is that in the ECHL virtually ***every*** head coach also functions as the GM/Director of Hockey Operations. Some may not necessarily have it in their title, but most – if not all – ECHL coaches are the primary person responsible for making the player personnel decisions when it comes to signings, trades, salary cap management, etc.

#BoltsDevCamp

The Tampa Bay Lightning are hosting their annual prospect development camp this week in Brandon. Four players who were on Orlando’s 2018-19 roster at various points – Alexey Lipanov, Otto Somppi, Oleg Sosunov and Clint Windsor – are in camp with the Lightning, along with this year’s first-round selection for Tampa Bay, Nolan Foote, whom the Lightning have already locked up to an entry level contract. I plan on heading down to the Ice Sports Forum later on this week to check out some of the action.

Elsewhere in the ECHL and the rest of the hockey world:

  • A couple of ownership changes have taken place – the Board of Governors approved the sale of the Reading Royals back to the Berks County Convention Authority, who previously owned the team during its lone Kelly Cup title in 2013. Meanwhile, the Norfolk Admirals’ membership has been transferred to the control of Patrick Cavanagh, a former player for the Hampton Roads Admirals who is involved in several businesses in the area. I’ve always enjoyed visiting Norfolk, and it’s great they appear to have found solid local ownership.
  • There have been a couple of coaching changes since the 2018-19 season ended. Not only does Norfolk have a new owner, but a new bench boss as well in the form of ECHL Hall of Famer Rod Taylor. The South Carolina Stingrays have returned to their tradition of promoting from within, elevating assistant Steve Bergin to the head coach role after going outside the organization last summer when they tabbed Spiros Anastas. And after parting ways with Bernie John, the Indy Fuel picked up Doug Christiansen from the ashes of the Manchester Monarchs.
  • Additionally, there have been a few affiliation changes, both of which concern teams in the South Division. After only knowing the Carolina Hurricanes as their NHL affiliate throughout their entire existence, the Florida Everblades are now the Double-A affiliate of the Nashville Predators, while the Greenville Swamp Rabbits announced this afternoon that they have picked up the Carolina affiliation. A potential shift in the balance of power in the South Division could make things interesting this winter.
  • Besides selecting Jack Hughes with the top pick in the draft, the New Jersey Devils then went out and brought in a former Norris Trophy winner in P.K. Subban by swinging a trade with the Nashville Predators. Subban had an injury-riddled season, but the opportunity to bounce back on a team that’s now loaded with himself, former MVP Taylor Hall, Hughes and former No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier means the Devils are going to be big dogs in the Metropolitan Division. And having a player with the larger-than-life personality of Subban in the New York-New Jersey metro area can only help expand the profile of the NHL.
  • Veteran NHL defenseman Brooks Orpik announced his retirement Tuesday. He picked up Stanley Cup rings in Pittsburgh (2009) and Washington (2018), and he earned those championships on the strength of a very rugged style of play that is rarely seen in today’s game. Much respect to the big guy.
  • The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 has been announced. Canadian women’s team star Haley Wickenheiser, Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky and Sergei Zubov made the grade in the player category, while Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford and Boston College head coach Jerry York are in the builder category. Fun fact: despite having a cast of offensively brilliant players including Mark Messier, Alex Kovalev, Adam Graves and Brian Leetch, it was actually Zubov who led the Rangers in scoring with 89 points during the regular season before winning the 1994 Stanley Cup. Still waiting for the call from the Hall after several years of eligibility: Jeremy Roenick, Alex Mogilny, Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter and Kevin Lowe. Better luck next year, fellas.

That’s all for now, guys. Next week, I’ll hope to have a recap of everything from Lightning Development Camp.

Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his fifth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2019-20 season. Shoot him an email at jliebman@orlandosolarbearshockey.com with questions, comments or blog ideas.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Solar Bears. All opinions expressed by Jesse Liebman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Solar Bears or their Hockey Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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