After Further Review, Goalie Interference Calls Still Inconsistent

I thought instituting a coach’s challenge was supposed to help eliminate the debate related to goals caused (or not) by goalie interference. Alas it appears my expectations have once again been set too high.

The latest debate of goal or no goal came in the first period of February 4th’s 2016 Chicago Blackhawks versus Arizona Coyotes game. Blackhawk forward Marian Hossa was initially credited with a goal after a great battle in front of the net. The Coyotes challenged the call on the ice, claiming that Hossa had interfered with goal tender Louis Dominigue. After reviewing the play, the on-ice officials decided that Hossa had indeed interfered and prevented Dominigue from making a play on the shot.

I personally have watched the video dozens of times, and all I see is defender Klas Dahlbeck pushing Hossa from behind into the goal tender. But the only opinion that matters belongs to the officiating crew. Compounding matters, the Coyotes were then awarded a power play as a result of Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville receiving a bench minor for disagreeing a bit too strongly (cough cough). Of course the Coyotes subsequently scored, taking a 1-0 lead instead of trailing by a goal. In a game where momentum can turn quickly, this call could have left the Blackhawks angry and frustrated all night. Instead, they became even more determined to win.

As with all reviews, the NHL Situation Room released a statement following the call reversal:

According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Referee, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,’ as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4.” Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Chicago Blackhawks. Since the Coach’s Challenge resulted in the original call being overturned, the Arizona Coyotes retain their time-out.

An Inconsistent Application of the Rule

That is all fine and dandy, except what about the fact that Hossa was pushed into the goalie? This is nothing new either. From time to time, we see goals allowed to stand when a defensive player causes the interference. We also see goals waved off even though a defenseman is actually at fault for the interference. Consistently applying the rule seems, well, inconsistent. Don’t believe me? The same night, the Colorado Avalanche were initially credited with a goal when it was clear Dallas Stars net minder Antti Niemi was interfered with by Andreas Martinsen. I am not sure exactly what the referee was looking at initially when he called it a good goal, but at least the call was correctly overturned upon review.

Please do not get me wrong, I am actually happy that the NHL has instituted a coach’s challenge for goals that may have been aided by goalie interference or off-sides. However, the decision is still in the hands of the on-ice referee, rather than reviewed in the NHL war room. Yes you read that correctly, the referee doesn’t have to consult with the war room before rendering the final say. All they have to do is review the challenge on a tablet and then make a decision.

Consider this commentary from Hossa after the game when asked about the goal being reversed: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs, if there’s going to be calls after calls after calls. But I don’t think it’s good for the league.” Come to think of it, Hossa might be on to something. Can you imagine if that was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that exact situation happened?

A Simple Solution

The solution seems rather easy to implement in this case. Take the decision out of the hands of the on-ice officials. Let the call be reviewed and decision made in the NHL Situation Room, just like is done when determining if there is a good goal on the ice. The NHL Situation Room has access to much larger screens and is also far removed from the pressure and intensity of the game itself. Either that, or the coach’s challenge needs to be removed entirely.

Hockey is a fast-moving game and calls on the ice often happen while referees and linesmen are screened by the play around them. It is also absolutely essential that disputed goals be reviewed in a timely manner as necessary. However, it is far more important that the reviewing referee, who has access to all available angles, get the call correct. Otherwise, we might just see a Coach literally explode on the bench. We don’t want that now do we?

Stay feisty my friends.