Should There Be a Mercy Rule in International Hockey?
One thing Canada’s always been on the fortunate side of has been the blow out games. After the womens team beat Slovakia 18-0, the debate on whether or not there should be a mercy rule was brought up again. We watch the womens team dominate most countries except the US, we spent our Christmas and New Years watching the Canadian World Junior team slaughter teams, and even in the mens opener against Norway, Canada stomped them 8-0. So that raises the question, do we need a mercy rule?
What is winning a game by 18 goals doing? I for one, am a proponent that no matter what the score, if you’re up by one goal or up by six goals you shouldn’t let up the offense. I’m all for running up the score in an NHL game because in NHL games there are different things at stake. It’s not a regular occurence in the NHL and it’s welcome and exciting when it happens. But when you watch the Canadian juniors romp 16-0 over the Latvians, or the Canadian women put up 18 over the Slovaks there’s little exciting about that. The irony is that the Slovaks, to qualify for the Olympics, beat the Bulgarians 82-0. That’s not just excessive, that’s completely unnecessary.
When approaching this question, people have to look at it from the perspective of the sport as a whole. Teams like Bulgaria, Belarus, China, Latvia, etc. don’t come into the games with hopes of a medal. Their expectations are slightly different and so their measure of progress is developmental. Their goal as a team is to bring knowledge of the sport to their country through playing at that elite level. When a Canadian kid watches Team Canada beat the USA he thinks “One day I want to make Team Canada” and it starts there. I guarantee that a kid from Bulgaria doesn’t think “When I grow up, I want to lose 81-0 instead of 82-0”. They’re most likely planning on avoiding the sport all together at that rate.
When you look at hockey as a fan of the sport, there is no good that comes from shelling a team that badly. At an international level the tie breaker has to be a result of head to head play, not goal differential. There’s no good that comes from Canada, or any team winning by such a substantial margin. When a team is down, or up by such a large margin the game loses its’ competitive nature. International matches are meant to be about competition to showcase skill, not a method of embarrassment.