You can probably see where this is going but bear with me. I beg you. Recently we've had some issues with blown calls. Serious issues and seriously blown calls. The one with Detroit and San Jose was unfortunate, admittedly, but let's be reasonable; one point will not lose them the President's Trophy. It will take at least two. But I digress...
The incident in Atlanta was borderline ludicrous. I believe Joe Bowen said it best when he likened it to a good old minor league game where the goalie just tosses it to safety after covering it, the opposing team gives two stick-lengths, and play continues. I can understand Don Waddell's frustration and if I were behind that bench I too would have been trying with all my might to rip that piece of paper to tiny little Domi-sized shreds. I hope that was like fifteen sheets all together or Don needs to hit the gym in a bad way.
The incident with the most potential to have extremely serious implications, was the situation in the Buffalo/Philadelphia game. To be fair, referees are conditioned to seeing 5 guys on the ice most of the time. Accordingly, seeing a 5th guy skating down the ice would not be setting off alarm bells unless that ref is really on his game. (This point will come up again further down.) Unfortunately the possible ramifications of that missed call are just too great to be shrugged off. Especially if Buffalo finishes with 92 points and Philly finishes with 91. That would be tough to swallow for fans of the Orange, Blanc et Noir....
So what to do? Well, the NHL isn't the only league in North America with officiating so let's take a look around.
In the NFL it seems like every third touchdown and every fifth catch is reviewed. It can lead to a yawn-fest but people are rarely dissatisfied with the eventual call and I would argue that the review, if used sparingly and appropriately, adds a whole new level of suspense to an already exciting game. Penalties can't be reviewed and this makes sense because that would undermine the authority of the officials. But in situations where the decision is clear-cut the review in the NFL seems to be a fair and logical idea.
The ever-traditional MLB is reluctant to introduce any form of review but they are considering reviews for the home run. Given that it is such a game changing play and some extremely crucial games have been decided by home runs, which would have been quickly allowed or disallowed by any cursory look at a replay, I believe this is a step in the right direction and an idea with truly positive potential. [See Jeffrey Maier.]
The NBA doesn't use much replay review to my knowledge so we'll just skip them. (I've only really watched basketball since the Raptors brought in Colangelo anyway. Hey, I'm a Leafs fan, I need some kind of meaningful bandwagon!) Given that the scoring rules are pretty clear cut (ie. no goaltending) the concept is simpler and it is rare for one basket to decide an entire 48 (48???) minute game.
Where does that leave us? I know! I know! Pick me!
Questionable goals will still be reviewed as per the status quo. A la the NFL, Game-changing plays (goals) should be reviewable IF a team feels that a goal should have been reviewed and subsequently requests that it be looked at again. To prevent abuse the number of requests allowed per game should be very limited, maybe to one per game. Furthermore, the goal can only be disallowed by an obviously missed stoppage that can be confirmed with 100% accuracy. For example, if the puck hits the mesh, the goalie has the puck clearly
covered for X amount of seconds (I admit, that one might need tweaking, but Waddell would back me up!), if the net is clearly off its moorings, if it is clear that the scoring team has too many men on the ice, or in any other situation wherein the play would be stopped in normal circumstances, then the goal should logically be disallowed. Nobody would argue with the decision if it was confirmed with 100% certainty by review. If the play stands you lose your challenge and
a time-out. Tough beans. If it is over-turned then kudos!
You might be thinking, "Hey, 'too many men' is a penalty! They can't overturn penalties in the NFL so they shouldn't overturn it in the NHL either" and that is true. However, they DO review the play if a team has a 12th man on the field. It's easy to catch with the replay and it is the very same with hockey. To call both infractions 'penalties' is purely semantics because penalizing a team for having an extra man in the field of play is not a subjective call. You might also say "Oh come on, this game is boring enough as it is! 60 suspenseful seconds of pontificating will only slow it down" and you might
be right. However, hockey is an exciting sport to watch and I think American viewers could handle it. After all, Bettman is looking to make a breakthrough in the United States and wouldn't taking a page from the NFL's book be a step in the right direction?? The NFL does OK with the soul-sucking replays and they happen far more often in the NFL than they would in the NHL. In fact, a team might only challenge a goal against them once or twice a year so the net effect would be miniscule. You might now be inclined to ask "If the replay is going to be used so infrequently then why even institute it?" (I hope it doesn't come down to this but...) ask Philly fans if the Flyers finish 9th.
The pundits on TSN, especially Mad Mike, claim that such a policy would be nitpicking but would it really change anything? It wouldn't require much, if any, rule changing. I'm sure refs would love to have the security of being able to cover their mistakes in such crucial situations. It would be of great assistance when the teams are playing four-on-four and refs aren't immediately alarmed by the presence of a fifth skater; exactly what happened to Philadelphia. Honest hockey players would rather score within the rules, not because of an oversight and competitive hockey players hate to lose for the same reason. Coaches hate to lose because of blown calls. General Managers hate to see all of their hard work undone by an aberration.
So who loses here? Just the people who say "missed calls are part of the game." But that's like saying "Double-standards are part of being in a relationship." Both are true but both
need to be changed. And in a big way.
Think about it.