Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I appreciate your earlier comments on Toronto's handling of the Vanek goal, and I'm sure you've seen the Howie Rose-Kris King interview by now. I'm still left with some basic questions about what the actual NHL rules are at this point, and was hoping you could provide some insight.
1. Does the situation room still need clear, incontrovertible evidence to overturn calls made on the ice? Every NHL announcer seems to think so, but Kris King clearly indicates that while that logic held in many cases there was a specific subset of calls (including kicking motion) where the situation room could take the on-ice call as purely advisory and didn't have to find incontrovertible video evidence in order to overturn. Is King's view backed up by formal statements/rule changes? Do NHL refs uniformly understand that Toronto needs clear evidence to overturn in some cases but not in others?
2. King's comments seemed contradictory in that he said the rules regarding kicking were defined so that neither refs or the situation room needed to make any judgment as to the players intent (i.e goals scored by kicking should be disallowed even if they could be considered unintentional or inadvertent), but also raised the point that "foot dragging" could be defined as "kicking" in this context. First of all, Rule 38.4 which you quoted in your initial comment does not mention foot dragging, and the "pendulum" motion it prohibits would seem to explicitly exclude the possibility of disallowing goals based on foot dragging.
Has there been an internal memo or formal rule change that all NHL refs would be aware of that expands Rule 38.4 to include foot dragging? Secondly, outside of extraordinarily blatant cases, how could anyone disallow a goal on foot dragging grounds without judging the player's intentions? Hundreds of goals go off skates where there has been no "pendulum" type kicking motion. How could anyone distinguish good from bad goals without determining whether they thought the player was trying to intentionally redirect a puck, as opposed to simply position themselves near the goal mouth where lucky bounces sometimes occur?
We all understand that no set of rules can ever be perfect. The issue here is that you and most fans that saw the Vanek video believed the rule to be applied in that situation was one thing, and King may have implied (but never clearly said), no - the rule to be applied in that situation is different. If the rules are 100 per cent clear to refs and everyone in the league, it would still be useful to communicate changes more clearly so that announcers and journalists aren't confusing the fans. Of course, if situation room personnel think they can establish rule interpretations that the on-ice staff isn't in sync with, that would raise a different set of issues.
Hoping you can clarify what the real situation is.
I truly believe that each person who staffs the Situation Room on a nightly basis in Toronto is a man of integrity and cares deeply about the game. They do not take the huge responsibility handed to them lightly and they do strive to get every call right through video review to the best of their ability. When a play, subject to review, is taken over by the Situation Room their judgment is independent of the referees' and any decision rendered through video review is final. The only exception is when video review returns an "inconclusive verdict" at which time the call reverts back to the referee on the ice. In almost every case the referee's initial call will then stand.
The referees make the call from their vantage point in real time based on the rules as written and with the direction and expected standard of enforcement they are handed from their superiors. The refs recognize that their decision on the ice can be overturned for any reason, whether they agree or even like it! It would appear, at least from the perception of the personnel conducting the video review, that clear and incontrovertible evidence is present for them to overturn a referees' call on the ice. That perception and ultimate decision is always subject to debate and scrutiny from the hockey community.
While I can't ever recall Kris King agreeing with a penalty I assessed against him during his 14 season NHL career I know him to be a very good, honest and charitable person. As a former player that was most often cheered by adoring fans, Kris and his colleagues in the Situation Room can sometimes find their decisions challenged rather vehemently by various members of the hockey community. No differently than a referee experiences throughout his career, it goes with the territory! This might explain some of Kris' apparent defensiveness during the interview with Howie Rose.
What Kris didn't explain, but only alluded to, were instructions provided them by the general managers how to ascertain a "distinct kicking motion" beyond the definition provided in rule 38.4 (iv). If such instructions include a skate drag or worse yet, unintended contact with a player's skate resulting from physical contact by an opponent, these 'new' criteria should be clearly communicated to the rest of the hockey world. That I believe is the question that Howie Rose and the rest of us would like a clear answer to. I would be most curious to know if Isles GM Garth Snow and Habs GM Marc Bergevin (following Brendan Gallagher's disallowed goal) among others have signed off on the instructions Kris King alluded to. A referee often factors in "player intent" when imposing his judgment on infractions and calls. To suggest otherwise is illogical.
At the present time a vast majority of the hockey community, including current and former officials, current and former players, broadcasters and fans can't logically understand decisions to disallow goals like the one that went into the net off the skate of Thomas Vanek. The answer to that question has to come clearly and definitively from Colin Campbell, current Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations who holds the keys to the Kingdom.
Finally, the integrity and accuracy of the video review process would be greatly enhanced if the NHL were to employ former referees to provide their specialized expertise and INDEPENDENT judgment in these matters no differently than the other major professional sports leagues have recognized is necessary.