The NHL Video review process has had its ups and downs in this first year. With any review process, the biggest complaint is going to always be the amount of time it takes to review the lay and sort out the call. To its credit, the NHL has the fastest review process of all the four major sports leagues. It’s still an issue for me as a viewer though, mainly because it’s hard to enjoy the moment of what just happened when I have to wait for a review to know whether I’m actually allowed to celebrate. It’s killed the atmosphere in some key moments for me. It’s especially frustrating when a play is reviewed by the referee or the booth to determine a call and the coach has to sit there and wait to find out if it’s a call he can challenge. Then the coach demands a review and we sit through it all over again.
To be fair, as per a January 9, 2015 NHL Public Relations update, in the first 607 games there have been 114 coach’s challenges. That’s only 1 every 5 games. As glaring as the mistakes and inconsistencies of officials in any sport are, this has to be some credit to how often they get things right. Looking even further, out of those 114 coach’s challenges, 83 on ice calls have been upheld and only 31 have been overturned. In 73 percent of cases, the original call by the official or the booth generated review end up being correct.
I wonder if all the extra time it takes to do a review is even worth it for the small number of times the call does get changed? The natural argument for the challenge of course is that even if it takes a few minutes, it’s better to get the call right. That’s true for a real black and white issue such as offside. Except for bad camera angles and blocked views, this is pretty much a right or a wrong. As it happens, 39 of the 114 challenges have been for offsides causing a goal, of which 23 original calls were upheld and 16 were overturned. In other words, 41% of the time there was a blown offside call that led to a goal. That’s probably a good argument to keep the challenge for offside.
On the other hand, the other 75 challenges were to look for goaltender interference causing a goal. Therefore, two thirds of the overall amount of coaches challenges are asking for a review to get a second opinion on a call that was derived from someone else’s opinion. There’s no clear set of rules here. Sometimes, a red will hesitate to make a call on the ice and confer with the other officials. That means the original ref wasn’t sure so he takes a few minutes to get the opinion of three other people. After a few minutes of talking it over, they make a call. In the opinion of the coach it’s the wrong call, so he asks for a review. In another building, another country sometimes, a group of people then take a few minutes to come up with their own opinion. All this takes time and mostly it’s pointless because there’s no definitive right or wrong to look for.
As a result of these 75 challenges, only 15 resulted in a change of call. That’s only 20%, and the consistency between any of the 75 interference calls that were challenged is about 0.006%. This takes too much away from the officials in my opinion, and it doesn’t gain anything. I say take the goalie interference challenge off the table and let the humans actually in the building do their job at ice level.
For the offside, it does yield more overturned calls, but there should be some sort of time limit between the missed call and the goal. If a team enters the zone offside, but spends two and a half minutes cycling the puck and the other team blows 4 or 5 chances to get it out, they deserve to be scored on. Not only are you taking away a well earned goal, but you’re forcing the players to redo the two and a half minutes they just played. Nobody wins.
Verdict: take away the goaltender interference review or change the rule to be much more specific; leave the offside review but only allow a challenge if a goal is scored as part of the initial scoring chance or within 30 seconds.