Sports are basically concerned with winning and losing. An exception is the National Hockey League, which last season counted 132 ties among its 720 regular-season results.
The Colorado Rockies qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs with more ties (21) than victories (19).
The NHL has been suffocating from the tedium of ties for years and finally the open mouths of yawning and disgruntled fans have opened the ears of NHL officialdom to the irritation.
So the subject of tie games and possible overtime play will be treated to in-depth discussion at the league's "summer" meetings, held as usual in the spring and opening here today.
The perennial problem of failing franchises is still around, with the Cleveland Barons apparently willing to play anywhere a crowd might gather. Additionally, there will be further debate on the continuing sore subjects of divisional alignments and scheduling.
If nothing is resolved in any of the areas of discontent, the league at least has assured itself of some positive news this week by scheduling its draft of amateur players for Thursday, as the concluding item of business.
The Washington Capitals, selecting second, are likely to grab center Ryan Walter of the Seattle Breakers, after Minnesota chooses center Bob Smith of the Ottawa 67s. Some NHL clubs are still pursuing those early choices with tempting offers of surplus talent, however.
The Philadelphia Flyers, attempting to rid their roster of fat cats, have offered packages of players to both clubs, so far without attracting a nibble.
"For some time they have expressed an interest, but we have never encouraged any discussion of it," Washington General Manager Max McNab said of the Flyers' overtures. "There has been some indication of interest from other clubs, too, but not as much as last year. We've established our policy of keeping our draft picks. A couple of clubs still want to talk to us, though."
The Capitals have two selections in the second round and have expressed willingness to part with one, but the other day they reportedly rejected a two-player offer from Colorado, including capable Gary Croteau, for a No. 2 choice.
Washington is backing a full discussion of the tie game situation, altough McNab does not wish to see a proposed 10-minute overtime period implemented immediately.
"We're not afraid of discussing it," McNab said. "Anything that will help fan interest is good. Every league that has tried overtime, if the teams are of reasonably equal strength, has found it does not affect the playoff standing one bit.
"Where the teams range from 129 points to 45, though, there is no question of too much difference as far as talent is concerned. Adding 16 2-3 per cent more playing time would give the advantage to the better teams.
The Capitals, in their four-year history, have never beaten Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia or the New York Islanders. They have managed one tie with the Canadiens, four with the Bruins and three each with the Flyers and Islanders.
Next season a scheduling change will provide for greater competition within each division. Accordingly, the Capitals will play Montreal, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Detroit seven times; everyone else four.
That is a step toward greater fan identification with divisional rivals, but many persons feel the league needs a complete overhaul and there is considerable support for three six-team divisions and more substantial intradivisional play. This is unlikely to gain approval, however, because nobody is willing to give up games against Montreal or Philadelphia.
McNab has presented for discussion several rules changes, one of which would enable a coach to call a timeout at a crucial stage to talk strategy with his players. Hockey has long prided itself on its continuous action, but television timeouts have already made that boast a bust.
"Ours is the only sport where a coach is not allowed to coach in a key part of the game," McNab said. "My feeling is if the coach and manager are going to be fired for losing, they ought to have a chance to do something about it.
"The playoffs could hinge on a last-minute faceoff and a coach might not have his usual dependable people out there, for reason of injury or penalty.He ought to be able to give instruction to his team."
Another item to be discussed is the proliferation of penalties among a few players. About 40 per cent of the penalties are called on less than 10 per cent of the players. There is a movement under way to increase punishment on these so-called goons for participating in more than a specified number of fights or for receiving more than a specified total of penalty minutes.
It has been proposed that the announcement of one minute to play in a period be eliminated, since it so often induces jeers from the crowd. Also, some persons are disgusted with repeated bench clearings to congratulate goal scorers and want to establish a penalty for such behavior.
International play will be examined, with Canada's participation in the 1979 World Championships in Moscow a key issue. That tourney will start April 14, only six days after the close of the NHL season.
NHL representation is essential in the World Championships to ensure Soviet participation in the three-game series against the NHL all-stars in New York, Feb. 8-10-11.