Why the NHL Must Expand the Use of Instant Replay

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Why the NHL Must Expand the Use of Instant Replay
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Raffi Torres was not punished for last year's head shot of Marian Hossa until after the game was over.

Instant replay works beautifully in the NHL.

Every goal is reviewed at the league's Toronto base of operations and if the puck does not completely cross the goal-line, a goal call is disallowed.

The positioning of cameras at NHL arenas allows replay officials to judge with 99.9 percent accuracy whether the puck has made it across the goal-line or not. If replay cannot determine that an official's on-ice call is incorrect, the call on the ice stands.

Instant replay may work better in the NHL than it does in any of the other sports. The NBA uses instant replay at end-of-game and overtime situations. Major League Baseball uses it for many of its home run calls—yes or no; fair or foul—but it does not use it for other controversial calls.

The NFL started the use of instant replay and it seems that it has had the biggest problem assimilating that tool. It's use is often too cumbersome and not timely enough for fans, coaches and players.

However, the NHL has other significant issues besides determining whether a goal was scored officially and legally.

The NHL is also in the business of protecting its players from blindside hits to the head. The league will review any blindside hit that results in player injury, but those rulings, subsequent suspensions and penalties occur the day after the game.

When Phoenix forward Raffi Torres ran at Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks in last year's first round playoff series, Hossa suffered a concussion and was knocked out of action for the remainder of the series.

A day later, the NHL suspended Torres for 25 games (later reduced to 21 games). Torres was vilified from coast to coast for his dirty play. The long-time agitator got his just reward.

Or did he?

While the league came down on him hard, the on-ice officials missed the call. Torres did not get so much as a two-minute roughing call for his shot on Hossa.

If the league had instant replay for plays that resulted in player injury, Torres could have received a five-minute intent-to-injure penalty, a misconduct penalty and a game misconduct penalty in addition to the future discipline the league would hand down after the game was over.

In 2010, Boston Bruins center Marc Savard suffered a severe concussion when he was hit from behind by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke (Cooke was not penalized for his hit). Savard was carried off the ice on a stretcher and while he came back briefly, it appears all but certain that his NHL career is over.

While instant replay could prove to be cumbersome for the NHL if it were used for offsides and icing calls, there is room to expand its use so it can protect players from players like Torres and Cooke who were inclined to injure opponents first and then apologize (sometimes) later.

It's time to use the technology available and protect players from vicious head shots by using replay to punish the guilty and get them off of the ice as soon as possible.

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