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Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson celebrates an overtime winner against the Winnipeg Jets at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

The pace and excitement of 3-on-3 overtime isn’t just a thrill for hockey fans – NHL players love it, too.

A survey conducted by The Associated Press and the Canadian Press of National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) representatives from all 31 teams found that 97 per cent of respondents say they enjoy the league’s current overtime format.

The survey also shows there are other rules the athletes are less thrilled with, ranging from delay-of-game penalties to confusion about goalie interference.

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And while the 3-on-3 period is popular, Arizona Coyotes defenceman Kevin Connauton says the worst rule in hockey is resolving a game with a shootout when overtime fails to produce a winner.

“I don’t really like the shootout,” he said. “I think you just play 3-on-3 and eventually someone will score.”

The survey found that 30 players say they like the 3-on-3 setup, while one player said he doesn’t. Playing a five-minute 3-on-3 period provides a fair way to end the game while allowing fans to see some pure skill, Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares said.

“[It’s] exciting, and you see the best players in the world with that type of time and space,” he said. “It goes to show it’s a good way to end games. There’s no perfect science to this. We want a winner, but we can’t play forever. It’s a great way to showcase the talent, the skill of the game.”

But the pace can be tough for the guys on the ice, New Jersey Devils netminder Cory Schneider said.

“I hate it as a goalie, but I like it as a hockey fan,” he said. “I think it’s better than the shootout, for sure. And I know it’s not perfect, but it gets you a decision, it gets people excited, you see some amazing skill and the way the league is now, it’s a great showcase for what these guys can do.”

The NHL moved from 4-on-4 overtime in the 2015-16 regular season in a bid to create more space on the ice, allow for more goals and reduce the number of games going to shootouts. In the postseason, overtime is in 20-minute, sudden-death periods at 5-on-5. There are no shootouts.

Radko Gudas says he liked the previous 4-on-4 setup better, adding that having fewer players on the ice is too much like “summertime hockey.”

“[You work so hard for 60 minutes 5-on-5] and then all of a sudden it’s 3-on-3, a speedier, faster guy pretty much wins,” said the Philadelphia Flyers defenceman. “I think 4-on-4 would [produce] hockey-like situations than 3-on-3.”

Dylan DeMelo of the Ottawa Senators loves 3-on-3, but said there’s one tweak he’d like to make. The defenceman wants to see a rule put in place that would stop players from taking the puck over centre ice and then back again to regroup.

The move would make overtime even more entertaining, DeMelo said.

There are a number of other rules players would love to see changed, including 63.2, which stipulates that a puck shot or batted over the glass earns a delay-of-game penalty.

“I don’t think it should be a penalty. I think it should be the same as an icing. Whistle, faceoff in your end, no ability to change,” said Colorado Avalanche defenceman Ian Cole, one of five players (16 per cent) who said the rule is the worst in hockey.

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“A penalty for a play that has a high chance to happen in a course of a game or a [penalty kill] or whatever, it seems a little drastic.”

For other players, the uncertainty around the goalie interference rule is particularly irritating.

Three players (10 per cent) said inconsistency or a “grey area” around the measure is their least-favourite part of the NHL rule book.

“What is goaltender interference and what’s not?” Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse said. “Maybe having more of a clear line, but any time you talk about something within the game, things happen so fast out there that judgment calls and whatnot, they’re hard to make.”

According to the league, there are only two situations in which goaltender interference should result in a disallowed goal: if an attacking player stops the goalie from being able to move freely within his crease or defend his goal, or an attacking player intentionally or deliberately makes contact with the goalie.

But some players say what counts as interference in one game might not be the same in the next.

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Last Friday, Flyers goalie Cam Talbot tweeted his dissatisfaction with how the rule was applied in the Leafs’ 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of their playoff series.

“Once again the NHL goalie interference review is flawed,” Talbot wrote. “Someone that’s played the game in the blue paint should be in the situation room. Games are being lost in the playoffs and it’s not right. #inconsistent”

Three players (10 per cent) said what they most dislike is offside reviews. Nine NHLers named another rule, including tripping being called alongside diving, and the ban on time outs being used when the puck is iced.

Eleven others didn’t give a firm answer when asked what they believe is the worst rule in hockey.

Anders Lee of the New York Islanders said he simply didn’t know.

“Rules are the rules. I just follow them,” the left winger said.

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