NHL’s Review of Reviews

Last season began a new era in the NHL when it came to one vital aspect, coaches challenges. The NHL implemented one challenge per team, per game when it came to certain on the ice calls. These said calls include offside, and goaltenders’ interference.


When the offside challenge rule was first implemented, NHL coaches threw their metaphoric red challenge flags without any second thought, as the only thing that possibly could have happened was a goal was overturned in their favor.

With near 120 offside challenges last season, the NHL created a new stipulation that would make coaches think twice before challenging the call on the ice. If the challenging team loses, and the call on the ice stands, the team is forced to surrender their timeout.

This, while odd, seems reasonable. The reason we say it seems a ‘odd,’ is the fact play can continue for numerous minutes before a goal is actually scored, so at times the average viewer may wonder how a team is able to challenge a potential offside that technically occurred minutes ago. In reality, there is no other way to go about it, as obviously challenges can’t halt the game in its’ tracks, or can they?

Imagine if that ‘metaphoric red flag’ became an actual red flag, and coaches are given the ability to throw the flag out on the ice within a certain time frame. By doing so, the game halts, and the officials either review the play themselves, or you can have the review come from the control room in Toronto.

“So you would want to give them the ability to stop the flow of the game/a teams potential momentum in the offensive zone?”

Yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying, but a greater impact, should correlate into greater repercussions. So we have the breakdown of the suggested rule implementation below.

  • One coaches challenge (per team) per game (regardless of call being reviewed)
  • A coach has 60 seconds to throw a literal flag (as it makes the most sense) out on to the ice to halt play for a challenge. While the flag halts play, the on ice officials will raise their hand as if there was an upcoming penalty, and once the challenging team touches the puck, the whistle blows for reviewal.
  • If the call is overturned, the offside is acknowledged, and a face-off will ensue directly outside the zone, and the team is awarded a second team challenge if needed at another duration of the game.
  • If the call is upheld (as in the play was not offsides), the challenging team receives a two minute minor penalty to accommodate disrupting the opponent’s play in the offensive zone.

“Well, I feel there is no point to challenging an offside then, as you technically don’t even know if you prevent a goal. Why would coaches risk the two-minute minor?”

Yes, that’s the point. Challenging an offside is ridiculous to begin with, so the idea is to make sure the challenging coach honestly thought there was an offside, and they better make their decision quickly. Not, ‘well I’ll just wait to see if they score (a few minutes later), and then I’ll throw the challenge flag.’ You either thought it was an offside, or not. It shouldn’t be, ‘well considering they scored, I’ll challenge it, and perhaps get lucky.’

Make this an almost invisible, and scarce occasion. A set up such as this will assure that an offside challenge is truly genuine.

Goaltender’s Interference

Next, goaltender’s interference… The NHL recently rescinded that on ice officials will take charge of any challenges related to goaltender’s interference after numerous inconsistencies with upholding, and overturning specific calls. Ok, great… What does this do? So now a different person is reviewing the call, ok, maybe they are more knowledgable, and equipped to review such call, but in all honesty, it doesn’t do much.

What the NHL needs to do is CLEARLY DEFINE what goaltender’s interference is. To be honest, coming from a diehard hockey fan, I have no clue what goaltender’s interference specifically entails anymore. There have been so many calls that contradict another (and I think thats why the NHL board room wants to take charge), but if the league just clearly defined what it meant, as in a descriptive, in-depth rule that reads, ‘goaltender’s interference shall be called when…’ The reason these inconsistencies continue to take precedent is due to the unclarity the call currently sets forth.
Going off this basis, is anybody 100% on the point of the goaltender’s crease is? The crease (or at least we thought), should be used as a guide for goaltender’s interference, right? Is that not why it was put in place to begin with? Make the purpose of the crease clear as crystal, as in, if an opposing player makes contact with the goaltender inside of it, it’s interference. There, was that so hard?

The NHL has added certain stipulations such as, ‘well only if it prevents the goaltender from making the save,’ or ‘only if the play in question is affected,’ you have made what should be a simple, ‘black and white’ rule into nothing but a conspicuous grey one.

So while we definitely appreciate the NHL’s acknowledgment, and attempt to address the rule, they’re going about it the wrong way. It has nothing to do with who’s reviewing it, it’s making the rule nonobjective, and eliminating any form of judgement. If this can’t be done, then it shouldn’t be review-able, and acknowledged as a ‘judgment call.’

Too Many Men (On The Ice)

Ironically, one of the most objective calls in the game is not reviewable, that call being, ‘too many men (on the ice).’ Either a team has five guys on the ice, or they don’t. There is no debate, there is no argument, there is no judgement of any kind. This is one rule that is clear as crystal, and ironically is not allowed to be challenged, or reviewed in any form.
Giving coaches the ability to challenge this doesn’t necessarily have to be formatted such as the offsides challenge suggested above. However, if a team scores with too many men on the ice, a coach should absolutely have the ability to use their coaches challenge. The most important thing is to get the call right, and with a rule as obvious as this one, it should not only be reviewable, but more encouraged than either of the other two reviewable plays currently in place.
All these calls should be clearly defined before any challenge, or review is permitted. While that’s the case with certain reviewable plays, calls such as goaltender’s interference need to be defined precisely, or consider them ‘referee discretion’ calls, and an un-reviewable play.

It’s all about getting the call correct, and if permitting certain reviews assists in that, we’re all for it. However, it’s also about finding balance to prevent game disruption, and potential momentum. Make all designated reviewable plays relayed to teams, officials, and fans so all discretion is eliminated, and obviously only overturn such on-ice call with indisputable evidence.

Hopefully, this article promotes potential clarity that the NHL still desperately seeks.

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