After The Whistle
By Eric Frantz
Ohio Ice Hockey State Final ends in a tie…Both teams tabbed champs after seventh OT
Sylvania Northview and St. Ignatius kissed their sisters Saturday. Both were awarded state titles.
The 2014 Ohio High School Athletic Association ice hockey state final was declared a tie. No lie. A tie. Two state champs. No runner-up.
The final? St. Ignatius 1, Sylvania Northview 1.
After three regulation periods and seven overtimes, the OHSAA had seen enough. Commissioner Dan Ross and administrators from both schools – including the head coaches – had a “lengthy decision” following the last overtime period (according to an official OHSAA press release) and decided that both teams would be named state champions. This came after St. Ignatius had taken the ice to play what it expected to be an eighth overtime.
When the decision was announced the crowd at Nationwide Arena booed and chanted “Let them play!”
The reason for the sister-kissing? Player safety.
There was a day and age that this game would have been finished.
That time – in Ohio – has passed.
Everyone is concerned with safety in sports. Rightfully so. It’s why there’s been a huge push lately with concussions. But is safety an excuse to award two state titles? No.
Did both teams pose with the same trophy? Who left with it? Who gets their’s shipped to them?
There had to be other options. These kids had waited a lifetime to earn this title outright. They could wait a couple more hours. Or perhaps a day.
Maybe a longer break between OT periods could have been established by mutual agreement. Maybe the teams could have agreed to come back Sunday. According to the Nationwide Arena website, there’s nothing on the venue’s schedule for March 9. The Blue Jackets don’t play there again until Tuesday.
The OHSAA could have found and paid for accommodations for the teams (kind of a thanks for that display deal). Fans would have been left to fend for themselves, but I’m guessing after watching seven OTs a lot would spend the night in Columbus (additional revenue for the city) to see the eighth.
Moving the finish to Sunday, however, would have impacted the tape-delayed television broadcast. It would have meant STO and Time Warner Cable personnel would have had to be on locale another day. Same with Nationwide Arena employees.
The argument could be made that had the outcome been delayed a day, attendance at the second session could have been impressive. There are a lot of hockey fans in Central Ohio.
As is, the decision to give two state titles was made.
But that wasn’t the only eyebrow-raising, head-shaking news Saturday. For those wondering why this game wasn’t settled by shootout after say the third OT, the reason is national high school rules do not allow for a shootout procedure. HUH? Soccer state finals can end in a shootout but ice hockey finals can’t? WHAT?
In that regard the OHSAA was set up. It couldn’t implement a shootout if it wanted because national laws prohibit it.
However unpopular the OHSAA’s decision was, one thing is for sure – it got instant publicity. The story was on ESPN, FOX Sports, SBnation, Bleacherreport and seemingly every other online sports outlet by Saturday night. Most were not in favor.
This game will also be an Instant Classic but for all the wrong reasons. And it didn’t have to be.
The script was nearly written.
Imagine penning a plot that has the longest game in state history happening in a state final pitting former state champions. One public. One private.
That was one OT away from happening.
As is, the Feb. 18, 2007 second round district game between Aurora and Solon that went to eight OTs will remain the longest high school hockey game in Ohio history.
And who would’ve thought back then that something more important than a state title was on the line that day – victory.
Aurora won 2-1.