What is OTL in hockey?

Broaden your understanding of OTL in hockey. This article traces its history, explains its role in team standings and presents the ongoing debate on its validity. The OTL; adding flavor to the hockey mix or just a consolation prize?


OTL in Hockey: A Puck-Slide Away From Victory

Imagine you were that close to winning your dream car, just a hairbreadth away, but at the last second, your key doesn't turn the ignition. That, my dear friends, is the world of OTL in hockey, a world richer than a hotdog-loaded stadium, yet as frustrating as a blocked power play. 

What is this OTL, you ask?

OTL, or Overtime Loss, is like that backhanded compliment you're never sure how to feel about. Yes, it means your team lost, but it also means they didn’t go down without a fight, sticking it out till the bitter, sweaty end. 

From 2005's Lockout to OTL: A Curveball, eh?

Let's rewind the tape a little to the dark days of 2004-05 when the entire NHL season was wiped out faster than your arena beer on a Saturday night. The lockout, instigated by disputes over salary caps, was a nightmare that left in its wake a slew of rule alterations, one of which was the introduction of the shootout after a 5-minute sudden-death overtime. 

But, hold your Molson's there! Here comes the OTL wrinkle. With the shootout rule, it meant that two kinds of losses were now born: one in overtime and the other in a shootout. Hence, the OTL was adopted in the standings to differentiate between regulation losses and those heavy-hearted losses post-overtime. 

The Shifty Math of OTL Points

Now, let’s skate over to OTL and its impact on a team's standings. When a game goes into overtime or a shootout, both teams are slotted one point—call it a pat on the back for their gumption. The team that clinches the game gets an extra point, making it a sweet two-point night. However, the losing team has to settle for its single point, the OTL point, which is like getting the smaller slice of pizza even though you paid half. 

On Thin Ice: The Debate on OTL

Pass another round of nachos because we're diving into the murky waters of the OTL debate. Some fans, in their flannel jerseys and lucky socks, argue that the OTL system rewards mediocrity. I mean, it’s like getting a participant trophy even though you lost, right? Now, before you start hurling your foam pucks at me, remember teams have been known to play a calculated defensive game during the 3-on-3 overtime to secure this OTL point. Makes sense, but where's the thrill in that?

Yet, there are others, probably the same who think pineapple and ham is a pizza, who believe the OTL point sustains the excitement of the season, maintaining suspense in standings right until the end. And aren't we all suckers for a good suspense?

So, is there a middle ground? An ice resurfacer of a compromise? Tossing the OTL completely might lead to conservative play, reducing the high-speed intensity we crave. Yet, letting it remain could incentivize playing for the tie. A proposal to reshape the point system is floating around, but for now, the OTL seems to be here to stay. 

OTL: Hockey’s Most Polarizing Three-letter Word?

So there you have it, the OTL - a hockey concept as divisive as a referee's penalty in the final minute. No matter what side of the rink you're on, one thing's for sure, OTL keeps the hockey season hot enough to melt the ice, keeping us all hooked. So, the next time your team lands an OTL, will you be ranting about the unfairness or applauding the earned point? Now, that's what I call the real overtime game.