Fraser: Coach's challenges would be a good idea

Kerry Fraser
12/20/2011 3:36:04 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at!

Hey Kerry,

More of a curiosity question than anything - Would you be in favour of giving coaches an option to challenge a ref's call during the game, similar to that in the NFL? We both know refs are human and therefore errors do occasionally occur as they can't see everything on the ice at all times. Monday night's game between the Leafs/Kings provided a perfect example of this when the linesmen clearly missed the offside call on the Kings' power play. This missed call directly led to an L.A. goal and ultimately the Leafs' loss. 

I have given quite a bit of thought into this and maybe it's something that someone in your position could push, should you so desire to push it. It could work something like this...

A team is given the option to challenge a ref's call or missed call once during the game. Once the challenge is made, video review (from the head office in Toronto) would be used to determine if the call was missed or the ref made a mistake. If the coach is correct in his challenge, the call would be reversed, but if he is incorrect, a two-minute delay of game penalty would be assessed. So for example if Ron Wilson used his challenge Monday night and was correct, the play would be restarted on the blue line dot as an offside and no harm no foul. 

Anyways, just wondering if you would be in favour of something like this or not.

Jason Vanderwel


The plain and simple answer is yes!  I would welcome a coach's challenge under controlled situations during a game, no differently than I welcomed video review when it was first instituted to verify the legal scoring of a goal.

Video review was instituted because it just made good sense when an obvious error was made or an undetected goal had been scored that negatively impacted the game and had the potential to alter the final outcome. 

It made no sense that the television audience, the coaches with their spotters in the press box and the fans in the building who watched a review on the in-house scoreboard knew that an obvious error had been made, yet the referee had to stick by his initial judgment. 

Technology became available to install cameras in a consistent location throughout all NHL rinks to allow video review to verify the scoring of legal goals or in some cases overturn the referee's decision. While it isn't perfect, most of the time the correct decision is rendered.

I believe we are at the point in the game where we look foolish some nights when obvious human error has taken place that impacts the game, such as the missed offside in Monday night's Leafs/Kings game. This is not an affront to the referee and linesmen fraternity, but just an acknowledgement that mistakes do happen. The NFL is attempting to correct those on-field mistakes with a proper challenge review process.  It is clearly time for the NHL to follow suit.

I am certain if a challenge was issued by NY Islander coach, Jack Capuano when the referee mistakenly thought that Travis Hamonic's elbow cut Brooks Orpik instead of the Penguin player's own stick, the referee would have been relieved to overturn his initial call.
Play might have been ruled dead when Carey Price clearly had the puck frozen on the opposite side of the net from the referee on the play that resulted in Kris Letang's overtime winning goal after the puck was ultimately dug out of Price's glove, if Jacques Martin could have issued a challenge. (Does NFL language, "player ruled down on contact prior to the fumble" ring a bell?)

I was in the Air Canada Centre the night that Colton Orr skated directly out of the corner and steamrolled the Florida Panthers goalie which resulted in the game-winning goal.  Dale Tallon was not only justifiably irate but proposed the "coach's challenge" a few days later at the general manager's meetings.  I believe his proposal needs to be revisited.

I like every aspect of your proposal for a coach's challenge, Jason with the exception of one crucial area of review.  I have stated in the past and I state it emphatically once again that any and all reviews should be conducted by the referee(s) that are working the game and not conducted in Toronto.

The game officials are paid to make decisions. Afford them the opportunity to correct one that has been made in error. Toronto will ultimately be whispering in their ear as they review the play from a secure location on-site.  If the game officials are allowed to render the final decision, I guarantee it will be done much more quickly and effectively. I believe there will be less likelihood for the officials to be looking upstairs when the final decision process is placed in their capable hands.

I think Ron Wilson might agree and I know the linesman that missed the call would love a second chance to get the call right.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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