If baseball can expand video, so can hockey

Nicklas Kronwall’s goal Saturday night highlights the need for expanded video review, either in the form of a coach’s challenge or expanded video review powers. And injuries take away from the bottom line, but they don’t affect ticket prices.

There’s something very wrong when even the player who scored the goal says it was illegal. There’s nothing the NHL can do, for now, about goals such as the one Niklas Kronwall scored to tie the game with the Los Angeles Kings Saturday night. But it can do something in the future.

Let’s face it. If Major League Baseball, the most staid and slow moving of all the professional sports, can find a way to vastly expand its video review system, surely hockey can do the same. Because when someone scores a goal as blatantly illegal as the one Kronwall scored in the Red Wings 3-2 overtime win over the Kings Saturday night, there’s a problem. It will be an even bigger one if the Red Wings, who are life-and-death to make the playoffs at the moment, squeak into the playoffs by a point or two.

There doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite on the part of the GMs to insititute a coach’s challenge, the way baseball did last week. It has been discussed at meetings in the past and likely will when the GMs meet again in March, but there doesn’t seem to be much motivation for the GMs to push for change.

“I don’t think there’s a majority at this point that feels it’s the way to go,” said Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. “If I remember the meetings correctly, there was a real concern it would take more time.”

But there could be some movement for change. One GM I spoke with today plans to make a motion at the GMs meeting that there be a separate camera at the penalty bench for officials to review calls they made on the ice.

Even if it takes more time, it’s more time that would be well spent, you’d have to think. You want to get it right and the league could do one of two things to make sure that happens more often. It could either institute a coach’s challenge or increase the powers of the video replay judges in Toronto to overturn blatantly incorrect calls. Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau suggests the league make each and every goal reviewable.

“They keep talking about getting every goal right,” said Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. “So let’s get the call right. You would if you let Toronto make the call. They could say, ‘That guy collided with the goalie so it’s no goal.’ If they did that, they wouldn’t need a coach’s challenge.”

Let’s be clear on one thing here. The NHL has done an outstanding job with its video replay system. The waits for outcomes are generally short, calls on the ice are not overturned if the video is inconclusive and, for the most part, they get things right. But Kronwall’s goal, which went up into the netting before hitting Jonathan Quick’s back and rolling into the net, proves they have not gone far enough.

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No game is played at a more leisurely pace than baseball. But the powers that be found a way to implement a coach’s challenge, which can be done once a game. If that challenge turns out to be correct, the manager can have one more, and only one more, through the course of a game. It all sounds very reasonable.

And it also sounds like something the NHL should do. The Columbus Blue Jackets, who are clinging to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference at the moment, would likely agree.

OF INJURIES AND MONEY: A study commissioned by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto that suggested player injuries cost NHL teams a total of $218 million a season in lost player salaries. The researchers suggest that if there were less violence in the game, it would help the owners’ bottom line because they would be losing less money to injuries.

And they’re probably right, although some injuries are unavoidable. But where the researchers lose credibility is their suggestion that injuries end up ultimately costing the fans. Dr. Michael Cusimano, the study’s lead researcher, suggested the cost of injuries could be reflected in higher prices for tickets and merchandise.

“It’s like any other business. If the price of gasoline goes up, you pay more at the pumps,” said Dr. Michael Cusimano, the study’s lead researcher. “If the teams have to recoup those costs, guess who’s going to be paying more. The fans.”

A ticket in the gold seats to the Toronto Maple Leafs game against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night had a face value of $280. I would submit that the Leafs would charge that much for that game whether Phil Kessel were earning $5.4 million this season or $30,000 or whether he were healthy or hurt.

The fact is, ticket prices in the NHL are dictated by supply and demand, nothing more. Teams charge for tickets and merchandise prices the market will accept. Player costs have nothing to do with it. That’s why the Florida Panthers last summer were offering $7 tickets, which would give you an entire season’s worth of games for the price of one Toronto-Montreal ticket, and have a promotion promising free tickets to fans if the Panthers win. And that’s why the Leafs can charge $280 for a Saturday night against Canadiens.