Enough Is Enough: NHL Officiating Is a Bad Joke, Requires Total Overhaul

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst INovember 19, 2009

OTTAWA, ON - NOVEMBER 10:  Referees Scott Driscolll and Ian Walsh talk on the ice during the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Ottawa Senators in a game at Scotiabank Place on November 10, 2009 in Ottawa, Canada.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

The NHL has been in existence for over 80 years.

In that time, the game has changed tremendously.

From the number of players on a team to the equipment they use to play it, hockey today is vastly different than it was decades ago.

Save for one aspect.


As it was in 1926, the on ice official has the final call, the ultimate say, the total authority to call the game as he sees fit.

This must change.

The league has used video review for years, but it is slightly less useless in aiding officiating than the fans in the stands.

True, it has been used to determine if a goal was scored or not.

But what many don't realize is that the referees still have ultimate authority to determine when a goal is scored, regardless of what the video review reveals.

Additionally, in cases where a goal is clearly scored, the referee can waive it off if he determines it was scored illegally.

Again, regardless of whether or not his assertion is proved to be wrong.

Like last Saturday in Tampa Bay.

With the Lightning in a 1-1 tie with the Los Angeles Kings, the game goes into overtime.

At 1:40 of the overtime period, defense man Andrej Meszaros lets a shot go from the blue-line that beats Kings goal tender Jonathan Quick.

Tampa Bay celebrates and begins making their way back to the dressing room.

However, referee Frederick L'Ecuyer decided that there was no goal because Lightning forward Paul Szczechura had interfered with the Kings' net minder.

Video replay clearly showed that Szczechura was pushed into Quick by Kings' defenseman Sean O'Donnell.

However, any call made by a referee is not allowed to be reviewed, even if video replay shows he made the wrong call.

The league reinforced this idiocy after the game.

Referee Supervisor Don Koharski stated, "In the eyes of the referee, the goaltender was clearly interfered with by the attacking player."

The game goes to a shootout, which Tampa Bay loses.

That same night, the San Jose Sharks are in Chicago taking on the Blackhawks.

Late in the third period, the Sharks lead 3-2.

They appear to make it 4-2 as a Sharks' shot trickles past the goal line.

The video review shows Chicago goalie Christobal Huet's glove reach completely beyond the goal line and then sweep the puck out.

San Jose's color commentator summed up the no-goal call perfectly, "you are not allowed to use logic" when reviewing a goal.

Just last night in Detroit, the Red Wings are down 2-1 to the visiting Dallas Stars midway through the third period.

Detroit forward Brad May throws a spin-around, backhand shot on Dallas goalie Alex Auld.

The puck squeaks in over the goal line and is pinned against the net by Auld's left pad.

No one sees it at first, but then Detroit starts to celebrate.

However, referees Stephane Auger and Denis LaRue say it is no goal because the whistle had blown.

They made this ruling after a video review.

Now, you be the judge here.

Take a look at the play.

The video shows the puck clearly in the net.

Now count, one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, then the whistle blows.

The puck is in the net for a full two seconds before the play is called dead.

Surely, the video review has done its job and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Wings had tied the game 2-2.


The ruling of the officials is that the play was stopped at the time the puck entered the net.

Because, after all, it isn't the whistle being blown that stops play, it is the ref's intention to blow the whistle.

The Wings lose, 3-1.

NHL referees have been granted omnipotence by the league.

Whether or not their ruling corresponds with objective reality is immaterial.

Man, how fun it would be to have that type of set-up in your job?

"Sorry boss, I know the deadline was 5 PM and I gave you the report at 6 PM, but I intended to submit it at 4:55 PM."

Or maybe you could use it to beat one of those red light camera tickets.

"Your honor, the photographic evidence does appear to show me blowing through that red light, but, to my eyes, the light was green."

A ref being "sold" on a hooking penalty is one thing.

But bad officiating is costing goals and losing games for many teams in the NHL.

This cannot continue if the league has any hope of not degenerating into a farce on the level of WWE Wrestling.

The game is simply too fast and too quick to be accurately monitored by on-ice officials.

Referees are human, and therefore, will inevitably make mistakes.

But the current system denies this assertion.

NHL referees are, essentially, infallible.

Here are my suggestions on how to fix this, and I encourage your comments:

  • Get rid of this "intent" crap.  You either blow the whistle or you don't.
  • Make any call which can potentially "call back" a goal reviewable/ reversible by video review.
  • Mandate that the referee closest to the play has the authority to overrule a call made by the center ice official (this would eliminate those phantom hooking or slashing calls made by a ref 60 feet away while the ref six feet away, with a clear view of the play sees nothing).
  • Take a page out of the NFL's playbook and allow NHL coaches to challenge the referee when they've waived off a goal.  If the video refutes the ref's call, it's a goal.  If it shows the ref to be right, assess the challenging team a two-minute delay of game penalty.

Referees are not gods, they are fallible men.

The NHL needs to realize this soon, or our game, like the officiating that monitors it, will too become a bad joke.


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