General managers have recommended that video reviews for goaltender interference via coach challenges should be decided by the NHL situation room rather than by on-ice officials, who have made the final call since the challenges began in 2015.
The rule change will require approval by the NHL board of governors and the NHL/NHLPA competition committee, with the goal to have it implemented before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin in April.
As part of its decision to take the final say away from on-ice officials, the NHL also announced that it will add a member from the NHL officiating management team, which is composed of retired referees, to the situation room to help review plays.
If approved, while on-ice officials will no longer have final say on these calls, the situation room will consult them to better facilitate input on reviews. Among the ex-referees expected to work in the situation room, pending approval of the change, would be NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom, Paul Devorski, Don Koharski, Bill McCreary, Mick McGeough, Rob Shick and Don VanMassenhoven.
“While, since the adoption of the Coach’s Challenge, there have been relatively few controversial calls on goaltender interference — perhaps half a dozen of approximately 170 challenges this season — the objective is to be as close to perfect as possible,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “However, goaltender interference ultimately is a judgment call.
“The recommended change is intended to help resolve the rare cases in which the situation room and the referees might have different opinions of a particular play and is intended to produce more predictability for our players and coaches.”
The NHL’s situation room currently reviews goalie interference only in the final minute of play in the third period and at any point in overtime.
The league’s general managers had debated over the rule change for three days during their annual meeting in Boca Raton, Florida.
Coaches and players have hotly contested calls during the 2017-18 season, with both asserting a lack of consistency in determining what constitutes goaltender interference. But no changes are slated for the standard under which goaltender interference is judged, nor will there be any changes to the criteria governing whether on-ice calls should be overturned.
In 2015-16, the NHL instituted the coach’s challenge for scoring plays that might have included a missed offside or goalie interference call, giving on-ice officials the final decision on whether to overturn their calls — with advice and guidance from the situation room — by reviewing the plays on handheld video tablets. Having officials review their own calls was seen as a caveat from the NHL for allowing coaches to challenge their accuracy.
Bettman, however, indicated at the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Florida, that referees had overscrutinized goalie interference calls.
“We need to give a refresher to the officials. Take a good look, a quick look, but don’t search it to death,” Bettman said. “Overall, the system works, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where everyone is overthinking reviews. The intention, particularly on goaltender interference, should be, ‘Did we miss something?’ It shouldn’t be, ‘Did you search for something to overturn a call?’
“The presumption should be that the call on the ice was good, unless you have a good reason to overturn it. You shouldn’t have to search to overturn it.”
By centralizing the calls to the situation room, the hope is to further standardize the criteria for goalie interference and expedite calls.
Of the first 241 coach’s challenges, 152 were for goalie interference — with 105 upholding the call on the ice and 47 overturning it. Of those overturned, six were changed from a no goal to a goal.
The NHL also reviewed 20 goalie interference calls separate from the coach’s challenge and upheld 15 of those calls.
The NHL general managers did not suggest any changes to the league’s offside rules or coach’s challenge reviews.