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Dan's View From Center Ice - 1/18/2012

by Dan Rusanowsky / San Jose Sharks


Following a thrilling 2-1 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames on January 17th, the prevailing attitude overcoming the HP Pavilion crowd was one of relief. Yes, the Sharks should have won the game at 3:55 of overtime when a Justin Braun goal was incorrectly disallowed, but all’s well that ends well, right?

What if I told you that the difference between an overtime win and a shootout win is more than one less goal for Braun, one less assist for Joe Thornton and Tommy Wingels, and one less goal against for Miikka Kiprusoff? What if the difference between an overtime win and a shootout win could amount to millions of dollars for a franchise’s bottom line?

I’m sure that I have your attention now, but let’s review the entire situation before we get to the unintended consequences of the ruling. Under Rule 69.1, contact by an opposing player is what would constitute a referee’s decision to disallow the goal, and it is very specifically noted that such a decision is not reviewable by video replay, either on site or in the NHL War Room in Toronto.

The ruling was that in driving the net, Wingels made contact with Kiprusoff, but an overhead camera showed that the contact was with Calgary’s Olli Jokinen on the play. Jokinen was not directed by Wingels into Kiprusoff, although that may have been what the officials decided. In my own humble opinion, the wrong decision was unfortunately made, and there was no way to reverse it by video review.

Now, the Sharks did win the shootout, and they did get a win and two points in the standings. Calgary got an OT and one point, just as if they would have had the game been decided by Braun’s goal in overtime. So, where do the unintended consequences and millions of dollars come in?

If you go to the NHL website and look at the conference standings here, you will see a column that does not appear in most newspapers across America. That column is marked “ROW,” and it does not stand for “Ron O. Wilson.” It stands for “regulation or overtime wins,” and that is what makes the difference in this discussion.

At the bottom right of the standings, there is a little box with an explanation of the tie-breaker procedure in the standings. Since all teams will have played 82 games at the end of the season, the first tie breaker is in section number 2, or: “The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column.”

Let’s say that the Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings wind up tied in the standings for the Pacific Division lead. Had the Sharks won the Calgary game in overtime instead of the shootout, the win would have counted in the tie-breaker and the “ROW” category. Because it was a shootout win, it will not count in the “ROW” category.

If the Kings end up with one more “ROW” than the Sharks do, it could mean the difference of being seeded third or seventh, which happens to be the difference between first or second in the Pacific at this point in time. However, it could potentially mean the difference between making the playoffs or staying home when the party starts in April.

I’m sure that you can see where the millions of dollars of revenue come in when you consider that the difference between the third and seventh seed not only affects the competitive situation on the ice, but also affects the revenues coming in for tickets, parking, concessions, and external benefits to a city’s having one additional playoff game at home per round. In the extreme case of being in eighth or ninth place in the conference, and not going to the playoffs at all, the unintended consequences become all the more clear.

Now, as I understand it, every goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs is examined quickly so as to get the plays correct and not decide a game or a series because of an error. Given the events at HP Pavilion on January 17th, it makes sense to consider an exception to Rule 69.1 to allow for video review of all overtime goals, given the fact that the difference between an OT win and a shootout win could mean so much in the standings, playoff positions, and balance sheets of the parties involved.

By the way, referees Rob Martell and Mike Leggo, who happened to be working the game, are not the issue here at all. As always, they took the information they had from the positions they were on the ice, and made the best decision that they could in total professional fashion. They did not have the benefit of video review.

I’m not for removing the authority from the officials themselves, especially in a judgment call, but because of the difference between a regulation or overtime win vs. a shootout win, a strong case can be made to consider this exception to Rule 69.1, similar to the cases that allowed for video replay in the first place. I’m still not completely sold on making this exception, but it does deserve some strong examination.

Perhaps it will be another moment of destiny to have this game become critical in importance on Monday, April 9th, for one reason or another. It’s just another reason to keep listening and watching.

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