Thursday night in Boston was the site of the latest headache in video review for the NHL.
The hometown Bruins were playing a massive game against the Florida Panthers in their quest to not only secure a playoff spot, but also to stop a four-game losing streak that only brought back fears of a late-season collapse. Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Bruins’ center Patrice Bergeron had the puck at the side of Roberto Luongo’s net. A bank shot by Bergeron appeared find a little piece of daylight in between the short-side post and Luongo’s pad.
Right away, Boston’s No. 37 knew they had a tie game. However, the on-ice officials waved it off and left it in the hands of the “War Room” in Toronto. Fans inside the TD Garden and around New England waited …
… and waited …
… and waited some more. Five minutes that felt like an eternity passed by before the verdict by referee Kelly Sutherland was made.
“Inconclusive evidence that the puck crossed the line. The call on the ice stands: no goal.”
Well, that’s not entirely true, especially if you take a glimpse at the screenshot below.
I don't care if you are a Bruins fan or not. This video/photo is conclusive enough to prove its a good goal… pic.twitter.com/ngAGzsujfK
— Tuukka Rask (@TuukkaRaskk) March 25, 2016
It looks pretty clear the puck is entirely over the goal line; yet, that’s not how they saw it in Toronto. Bruins Nation, as you might predict, exploded within seconds:
After a lengthy review, it's still no goal. Wow. Incredible. That was IN! Unbelievable. #Bruins
— Frank Pimentel (@FrankBostonTank) March 25, 2016
Bruins color commentator Andy Brickley said it best during the broadcast.
“What a joke! You got it wrong Toronto, not by a little but by a lot!”
It was the latest in a string of bad calls that have gone against the Black and Gold all season. The NHL introduced video review and the coach’s challenge this season to make sure they got any questionable calls right. Instead, they’ve got them wrong. More than once.
Goal Line Technology?
There can only be one simple solution to go a long way in fixing this mess: the installation of goal-line technology.
Fans of European soccer, especially the Premier League in England, know all about this fool-proof system. It clearly distinguishes whether the ball has completely crossed the line and sends a signal to the watch of the referee when the system deems it to be a “good goal.” Currently in its second season of use, goal-line technology has eliminated the subjectivity of the officials and is more objective, leaving little doubt as to what is a goal and what isn’t.
The best the NHL can do is spend millions of dollars on devices that have screens the size of a standard iPad and interrupt the flow of the game while officials play what amounts to a guessing game. Is this how a billion-dollar professional sports league, who is trying to grow their game to compete with the likes of football, baseball and basketball, should handle controversial calls that decide big games? Are they willing to potentially risk a playoff game, series or even championship on a purely subjective call?
For fans of a league that are some of the most passionate in any sport and follow it religiously, they deserve better. The on-ice product deserves better. The 30 teams deserve better.
Thursday night in Boston may be the tipping point for a discussion on a system similar to what is used in European football. Gary Bettman and his posse need to sit down and have a serious think about how this whole video review process is being handled.
Not Just a Boston Thing …
For those of you that think this is just residual bitterness from the Bruins and their fans, take into account Panthers coach Gerard Gallant’s comments after the game.
“I mean, when you looked up at the screen, it looked like it was in,” he said. “To be honest with you, when I first saw it happen, I thought it was a goal.”
Claude Julien even got the support of one of his colleagues after the game, courtesy of The Score.
“I got another coach that texted me saying ‘WTF. How can that not be a goal? That’s coming from somebody who’s neutral.”
It turned out to be a big moment in the game as instead of a 2-2 tie, Florida struck a few minutes later to make it 3-1 and effectively kill the Bruins off. Boston’s response could have been better but it’s hard not to ignore the missed call affecting the psyche of an already mentally frayed squad.
However, it’s a pretty damning indictment when colleagues around the league come to your defense.
Video review and the coach’s challenge were supposed to make any questionable calls clearer. Instead, it’s just led to more confusion and chaos thanks to failed technology and continuous subjectivity.
It’s time for the NHL to invest millions of dollars in a system that has been proven to work in one of the biggest leagues in the world. It’s time to wave goodbye to the small screens by the penalty box and say hello to goal-line technology.