They occur three times per period, all within the same approximate timeframe barring the unintended.
The first comes at the first whistle past the six-minute mark, followed by the second under the same circumstances after the midway point of the period occurs, with the final one as the clock surpasses 14 minutes elapsed.
It’s the TV timeout, which depending on the game situation at the time, can be the bane of your existence or a saved-by-the-bell-type moment for a hockey team.
“It’s kind of almost a solely based on how you’re playing, right?” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
For fans, especially in this season where attendance is minimal if any, it provides a couple of minutes to grab another cold one, the snack you forgot on the countertop, or a quick run to the loo.
If you decide to endure the 120 or so seconds planted on the couch, these days you’ll find commercials of random people leaving tender voicemails to their financial advisors, or one with a woman holding a banana, seemingly prepared to give her daughter the ‘sex talk’ before simply telling her not to drive while stoned.
(If luck is really shining down on you during a particular word from the sponsors, you might catch a glimpse of the latest no scalpel, no incision snip-snip commercial from everyone’s favourite vasectomy doctor.)
What does this have to do with hockey, you ask?
Well, while you’re deciding on a harder form of liquor, a saltier snack or just making more room for both, the players you don’t see, thanks to the ads on your screen, and the coaches behind them on the bench are mulling over myriad things themselves.
Maurice thinks of so many things during the TV timeout that it would take nearly two commercial breaks to transcribe it all. (It’s been condensed here.)
“If you get a game with a bunch of whistles and you don’t like your game, your team’s not sharp, it is incredibly frustrating when they come,” he said. “And it’s almost happenstance. You get a line, say [Scheifele’s] line, we’re down a goal and they want to get going, and they’re up next and a timeout comes and you’re on the road. So depending on where that faceoff is, I’ve got a pretty good idea what the other team is coming out with.
“So, take the extreme, you get Oilers or something — and you’ve got a D-zone face-off and a whistle comes and it’s a timeout and it’s (Mark Scheifele’s) line and it’s a d-zone left draw and they’re coming with (Connor) McDavid. Then I’m going to come with Lowry. So they’re missing that shift, right? So you’re doing math on the bench all the time. So if you get a timeout in that 11-minute spot, you know that changes how the next four or five minutes is going to come, and what that guy is going to do with his bench.”
For a player, the initial feeling when the goalies start skating toward the bench after the play is blown dead is much the same: Where is the game at?
Andrew Copp was quick to throw the Oilers out there as an example as well.
“It depends on what way you look at it,” he said. “Let’s say Edmonton sees 14:15 on the clock and an offensive zone faceoff, they can throw McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl out because they know the next whistle, basically, is going to be a TV timeout. Then they get a two-minute rest and they can put them back out there at the end of the TV timeout. It depends how the lines are going, it depends how the bench is going.”
It can also be brutal for the team’s lower lines.
“My first year, I talked about the fourth-line curse,” Copp said. “As soon as you’re up and you’re about to go, a TV timeout hits. Or there is a quick whistle and then TV timeout and you’ve had a seven-second shift.
“The first line might be coming out after the TV timeout because you have to keep them in rhythm. It just depends how the game is going, what the flow of the bench is like, what has led to that 14:15 face-off. It can be disruptive, it can be not disruptive at all. It just depends where you’re at in the rotation and what the game flow is like.”
Maurice said sometimes teams will run all four of their lines straight through the game’s first TV intermission, using it as an assessment tool.
“Do I need to get my top-end out more? How is the matchup going for us? Do I have to hide a line?” Maurice said. “You got a line that’s in behind, and it’s their turn to go out and they’re sitting there because you’ve held them because you don’t like how they’re playing or don’t want them going out again against the other team’s best, and boom, you know the best is coming out. So now you’re trying to get a line going, but you’re not doing it at the expense of your game.”
It’s a rhythm game at the end of the day, for both the players and the coach.
Maurice said he’ll roll his four lines as long as things are going well. But that’s also a balancing act.
“If you’re getting a lot of power plays — if you’re getting enough touches on the power play then the top-end of your team doesn’t mind the four-line rotation at all, especially if the TV timeouts aren’t messing them up,” Maurice said. “But the first period (on Thursday night) we’re not on the power play. I end up with (Scheifele), it’s a six-minute period, that’s about his minimum before he feels he’s out of rhythm, right? So if it’s his turn to come up and that damn timeout comes at the wrong time and they put the wrong line out on the ice for your match, it can affect them mentally.
“You can see the fourth line especially. You finally get them on the ice, they go down, they do what you want, they put a shot up, boom, timeout. You know they’re big boys, they’re coming out. That’s the end of the fourth line’s shift. So sometimes I think they just try to keep it going in the zone for a little while before they shoot the puck so they can stay on the ice.”