A few days ago, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman uttered the quote heard 'round the world as far as hockey purists go.
"All the research that we do on a regular basis tells us overwhelmingly our fans like the shootout," Bettman said. "We're looking at numbers in the 70 and 80 percent approval range, which on any question is an extraordinarily high number. Anecdotally, I try to go to a game at least once in every building, and when you see an overtime game that goes to the shootout, the reaction in the building is sensational. Everybody's on their feet."
Funny, but the numbers seem pretty much reversed whenever we talk to someone who cares deeply about hockey (as opposed to whomever the NHL has surveyed). But we digress. The NHL shootout doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. So for now, let's not fight it. Instead -- and with full realization that the NHL does not settle playoff games in this silly manner -- let's imagine how some of the most memorable postseason games in Minnesota sports history might have finished if the sports in question used a similar format to determine a winner:
• Game 7, 1991 World Series: The Twins and Braves had battled through one of the most memorable Fall Classics of all-time. But after three wins apiece and nine innings of scoreless baseball, it all came down to ... a home run derby. Yes, the time-honored skills competition -- not unlike a shootout in hockey -- would end this game. Tom Kelly sent out Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett; Bobby Cox countered with David Justice and Ron Gant. And those sluggers mashed away off batting practice pitches until the World Series was decided, while Jack Morris sat in the corner gnawing a giant hole in a fungo bat.
• Game 3, 2004 Western Conference semifinals: Perhaps the series remembered most by Timberwolves fans is the seven-game, Western Conference semifinal series triumph over Sacramento. What you might have forgotten is that Game 3 -- with the series tied 1-1 -- was played in Sacramento and ended with a 114-113 Wolves victory in overtime. However, they could have settled things after regulation with a simple slam dunk contest. Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Webber -- no set plays, no shot clocks, just two guys jumping really high in the air.
• 1998 and/or 2009 NFC Championship Game: Both of these games have their place in Minnesota sports history. Both were gut-wrenching overtime losses with the Vikings oh-so-close to the Super Bowl. But what if instead of overtime, the game had been settled with a simple longest-throw competition between the QBs -- like the kind you see in punt, pass and kick contests? Randall Cunningham vs. Chris Chandler. Brett Favre vs. Drew Brees.
Hey, maybe Bettman's onto something.