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GM Meetings

Goalie interference review change won't eliminate judgment calls

GMs recommend giving final say to Situation Room for more consistency

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The theory is simple: If fewer people make the calls on coach's challenges for goaltender interference, the standard will be clearer. The calls will be more consistent.

That's why NHL general managers recommended a rule change at their annual meetings Wednesday. It was approved by the NHL Players' Association executive board and the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee; if it is unanimously approved by the Board of Governors, the ultimate authority will rest with the NHL Hockey Operations Department in the Situation Room in Toronto, not the referees on the ice, and a former referee will be involved.

 

[RELATED: GMs propose to have NHL Situation Room decide goalie interference]

 

But the goaltender interference rule will not change. The enforcement standard will not change. The process will not change much.

If history is a guide, the vast majority of calls will not be different than they would have been otherwise. There were 170 coach's challenges for goaltender interference through 1,100 games this season. How often would senior vice president of hockey operations Kris King have overruled the referees?

"Four, maybe five, times," King said. "And on the fifth one? They could have said, 'You're crazy.'"

Video: Discussing the GM Meetings proposed rule change

That this is a judgment call will not change. That there will be some disagreement -- and, of course, controversy -- probably will not change because someone else is making the final judgment. If it's to the point hockey ops feels strongly enough to overrule referees, it's probably a play reasonable people could see differently. That's the nature of it, and it's not as big of an issue as it has been made out to be.

"We're talking about six in 170," King said. "Really, 164 of them, there were no problems, and it worked really well. The officials took our information. They looked at that information. They've overturned their calls because of that information, when a lot of people said they wouldn't."

Video: EJ chats with Rosen and Cotsonika at the GM Meetings

Here is how it works:

The Situation Room is in the NHL office in Toronto. On the front wall is a large video panel showing each game. The brass sits there: King, senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell, senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy and vice presidents of hockey operations Rod Pasma and Kay Whitmore. Behind them are workstations with people assigned to monitor each game.

Each time a goal is scored, the person monitoring the game yells something like, "I've got a goal, guys." If there's even a chance of goaltender interference, he yells something like, "I've got a goal here. There's a lot of traffic around the net. You might want to look at this."

King and Pasma handle most of the coach's challenges for goaltender interference during the regular season. King handled all of them during the playoffs last year and will again this year -- the first three rounds in the Situation Room, the Final on site. He rushes over to the workstation, which has a monitor showing 14 different views.

"I'll look at that game before the team even decided whether they're going to challenge," King said. "And the interesting part is, eight out of 10 times, we know they're challenging the play before they do."

Video: EJ chats with Commissioner Gary Bettman

When the video goal judge in the arena calls the Situation Room because the coach is challenging for goaltender interference, a light flashes. If it's the final minute of regulation or overtime, hockey ops decides whether to initiate a review.

The person at the workstation cues up the replays for the referees to see on their tablet. In the regular season, King, both referees and the video goal judge speak to each other on headsets. In the playoffs, it's King, both referees and either a former referee, Pasma or Whitmore sitting with the video goal judge. (Each series has an officiating manager on site: one of six former referees, Pasma or Whitmore.)

King starts out with real-time replays, because that's how the referees judged the play on the ice. Usually, he shows them the overhead shot. He and the referees talk about other angles he wants them to see or they want to see, and whether they want them in real time or slow motion.

Video: EJ chats with Ray Shero about the GM Meetings

"We'll give him everything available to us, and obviously in a timely manner," King said. "You've probably watched ones where they've been too long, and nobody likes it. Trust me, we hate it. But we know how big they are sometimes, and sometimes even with the 14 different views and the live feeds, we still don't get that one look we're looking for."

King always finishes with a real-time replay.

"When you have HD cameras and overheads in slow motion, it's deceiving," King said. "Things look a lot worse than when you're actually watching it live. … You have to almost get it back in their head again."

The referee down low generally makes the call, but sometimes his view is blocked. His partner's opinion is just as important.

Finally, King will ask the referees what they think, and they will ask him what he and his colleagues think. Now and then, there will be disagreement in the Situation Room. But King said 99 percent of the time, he and his colleagues think the same way because they have been together for a long time.

Video: Steve Yzerman chats about goalie interference rule

"We can get a real sense of where [the referees are] leaning," King said. "If I feel they're off track a little bit, because two days earlier we had a very similar play and they were looking too hard, I'll say, 'Guys, you know what? We had a play like this the other day, and this is what the guys thought on this play.'

"And then they'll say, 'OK, you know what? You're right. I think the better call here is to keep our call,' or, 'We didn't see that live, and the better call is to overturn our call.' Now, I can't say, 'Listen, you guys are wrong, change your call,' because that's not the way it's written. They have the final call."

If the rule change is approved, hockey ops will have the final call. The department might use it for, say, 3 percent of reviews.

"I hope not," King said.

Ideally, it will be even less.

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