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C'Mon Ref: Video review would help officiate goalie interference

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Kerry Fraser
6/10/2014 7:35:58 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Hi Kerry,

What are your thoughts on the NHL's recommended rule changes from Monday? Do you think there's a way to make goaltender interference - or other on-ice rulings - more clear by going to video review? Does video review help the officials on the ice or take some of the decision making away from them? Which of the recommended rule changes do you think can really help the stripes in a game?

Steve Wishie,

Toronto

Thank you for submitting these very important questions following the competition committee meeting that took place on Monday in New York. The General Managers will be convening sometime in the very near future to discuss these issues. Since it would appear there was little or no input from a knowledgeable officiating mind in attendance, I wish to address the General Managers directly with the following comments specifically related to implementing an expanded video review.

I had the pleasure of developing a professional working relationship with each of you; in some cases that relationship began during your playing career and prior to your move into the role of general manager. While it is safe to say that we didn't or won't always agree, please know that I have great respect for the knowledge and care for the game that each of you demonstrates.  Having been on that goal-line far too many times to count during my 30-plus year NHL officiating career I know, better than most, the demands, expectations and difficulties that the current crop of referees are experiencing.  Goalkeeper interference is the most difficult decision that any referee has to make.

The referees, like no time ever before, require your most thoughtful assistance to equip them with the necessary tools to achieve success and uphold the integrity of the game. The time has now come to step outside of any traditional comfort zone and implement video review technology that is available to the rest of us that watch the game on a television monitor, but who are not charged with making a split second decision on these potentially game changing plays.

Based on Mathieu Schneider's quote below it would appear that the expectation of "certainty" must be met in order for video review to be expanded beyond the current allowances contained within the rules.

"I think the underlying fundamental here is that if you're going to go to video review in a given area, there is the expectation of certainty," said Mathieu Schneider, the NHLPA's special assistant to the executive director. "And it's just not there. It's very difficult. The type of things that we're talking about, a possible coach's challenge, are things that we might be able to be certain on. But there's still a ton of grey area."

I would respectfully submit that language contained throughout the rule book provides the referee(s) with the authority and latitude to exercise his individual judgment in the enforcement of the rules. Phrases such as "In the judgment of the Referee; There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees; The Referee, "at his discretion" may assess; The Referees are provided very wide latitude in the penalties with which they may impose under this rule; The discretion provided (to the Referees) should be exercised realistically…"

The referees do not apply a mathematical equation to problem solving. Instead, with your direction provided to them as to the expected standard of enforcement, the referees exercise their individual judgment to try and make the "correct call" from a position and vantage point that they occupy on the ice in that moment. This does not always achieve "certainty" and the referee's perception of the play can quickly be changed if he is provided with a different angle or more precisely through video review. The current process and follow-up protocol of a conference conducted by the four on-ice officials (when utilized) does not achieve any "certainty" that the correct call is ultimately made.

Gentlemen, one of the challenges that await you at your next meeting is to achieve some consensus among your group as to what actually constitutes a violation of rule 69—goalkeeper interference? Based on another quote following the competition committee meeting you have your work cut out for you.

Even the Game 2 situation brought what Schneider called a "split room" on whether it should have counted or not.

"There's a lot of instances where you have two reasonable people looking at the same video and have two different interpretations, and goalie interference is certainly one of those," Schneider said. "I think the education process is what's going to be most important for the officials, for the players, and I think Colin alluded to, we want to maybe err on the side of the goalie more often. Well, that's the direction we have to give to the officials.

"The education process is going to be key. And to have certain telltale signs."

Your room cannot be "split" on this crucial issue of players interfering with the goaltender. The players and officials are in need of more concrete direction. Empowering the referee to take a second look at a play with a quick video review, perhaps through a coach's challenge, will help improve these game altering decisions.

I also agree that "the education process is going to be "key".  The officiating brotherhood can never stop learning, evolving or improving. Give them the tools they need to develop better positioning philosophies so that they consistently know where to go when a player is coming at them or where to go to find the best site line to the goal. A well officiated game is also incumbent upon the utilization of a referee's sound judgment. He cannot be stripped of that yet again by a non-official making the call for him from an off-site location.

The referees want to get the call right! The couple of minutes it will take for the referee to review the suspected presence of goalkeeper interference, along with some good coaching, will lead to a new age of officiating.

Jonathan Quick Rick Nash (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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