My Suggestions for Replay After Another Controversy

Posted May 16th, 2019

There are two kinds of rules in the NHL rulebook.

The first type is the black and white rules; the off-side or puck-over-glass penalty where it is not up to the viewpoint of the official. A hand-pass can fit in this for the most part.

The second type is subjective. Most penalties fit in this box. Is it a 2 or a 5? Did the player dive? Was the goalie interfered with or did the defenseman give the forward a nudge into the goaltender at high speed?

As a former referee at the Junior A level, I had to deal with fast games without the benefit of replay. I know I made mistakes. I can remember a few times specifically that the players had a legitimate gripe. 

In a game between Salmon Arm and Surrey, with Surrey up by one in the final 20 seconds of the game, the home team was under attack in their end. The Salmon Arm goalie was pulled for the extra attacker. I can remember a Surrey defenceman motion with his arm, and the puck left the zone, in the air. I was pretty sure he threw the puck, which should have been a penalty. Unfortunately, I only caught part of the motion and didn't see him touching the puck at all. I didn't know for sure if he batted it or whether he threw it. The rulebook didn't allow me to check with my linesmen and the game ended with Surrey ahead.

In another game in Surrey, there was a face-off in Surrey's end. The draw was won to the defenseman who blasted a rocket into the top corner and out, hitting the back bar. At least that's what I saw out of the corner of my eye. Without the benefit of the replay, my initial reaction stood against the Surrey players claim of it hitting the cross-bar. The goal judges weren't reliable enough to trust as they often weren't even around at the start of the periods to do the light check.

I share those stories because as a ref, I would have loved to have the ability to verify I was correct. 

So here's what I would do if I were an NHL GM or on the rules committee, trying to figure out when and where to use video review.

In the comments on The Athletic's article about the St. Louis/San Jose debacle, many gave their opinions. Some hate replays and would ditch them all. Others would be ok with a 3-hour game if it meant every call would be potentially overturned.

I don't mind the idea of a coach's challenge. I'd even give expand it to allow unlimited challenges for plays that can lead directly to goals and double minor or major penalty calls or missed calls‚Äč. There are often times where there are more than one or two close calls in a game. 

1. Unlimited Coaches Challenges on plays that can lead directly to or prevent goals and double minor or major penalty calls or missed calls.

However, if the call on the ice is confirmed correct, there would be a penalty for intentionally delaying the game, just like intentionally knocking the net off. That way in the last two minutes, a bad challenge doesn't just cost the time-out that would have been used anyway. It would be a penalty shot

2. When the call on the ice is confirmed correct, the coach would be assessed a minor penalty for intentionally delaying the game. If in the last 2 minutes of regulation or in overtime, a penalty shot would be awarded.

The cost of being wrong should limit the reviews to being those either obvious or at critical enough ventures that the game is worth putting on hold for as long as it takes to review the call. Calls that stand because there isn't enough to overturn wouldn't carry punishment for the coach. Officials would be asked to justify cases where they did not confirm when a call was correct so that they wouldn't be able to take the easy way out.

I like how rugby has the TV Match Official (TMO) in the truck outside. Rugby even allows you to hear the conversation which helps the viewers understand why the decision is made. I'd go a step further and broadcast the video the officials are looking at along with the audio discussion on the television. The coaches on the bench can watch and listen to the discussion on their iPads. It could even be streamed in the arena to those with handheld devices.

This wouldn't eliminate the conspiracy theorists, but it should eliminate the complaints that people don't understand how the call wasn't overturned.

By having an official watching the game from the best viewpoint; seeing what we see at home, and with the ability to access the different camera angles, as the game is going, the obvious calls would be reviewed by the time the referees on the ice were asked by the coach to take a look.

I'd also open the review to award penalties if directly related to the challenge. In the SL/SJ situation, the defenseman looked like they had hauled down the forward right before the hand-pass was committed which would have been challenged. In the challenge, a penalty could be awarded against St. Louis in that case, while disallowing the San Jose goal.

One more thought. If the rules are too subjective, this won't work. I don't want to go back to the toe-in-the-crease days but goaltender interference shouldn't be as confusing as it is right now. Clarify the rules by making them clear, removing the subjectivity out of the rule as much as you can.

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