BOCA RATON, Fla. – After dedicating two days to making the game safer to play, the NHL’s general managers wrapped up their annual meetings by discussing how to get more calls right on the ice.
The most interesting item to come from Wednesday’s session was a request from hockey operations to start using video review to look at four-minute high-sticking calls. It garnered some support among the GMs and will be examined again when they meet during the Stanley Cup final in June.
Double minors for high-sticking are assessed when a player is cut by an opponent’s stick—something that isn’t always easily detected in real time.
“We’ve had situations where on video review it’s the other player’s stick and it’s a hard call on the ice,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior vice-president and director of hockey operations. “We said we can live with it for 82 games, but in the playoffs that’s a pretty big turnaround if you get the wrong call. The referees have supported us on that, they would like some help on that.
“That’s our plea in hockey operations.”
It appears the biggest issue to be worked out is whether a video review would be triggered by referees, a coach’s challenge or automatically with every double minor for high-sticking assessed.
The coach’s challenge was quickly shot down back in November when Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon put it on the agenda, but seemed to find a little more support here. Some of his colleagues are starting to see a place for it.
“I don’t think it can be broad-based, I think it does have to be fairly narrow in nature,” said Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier. “There is a concern from the official’s side. It’s very difficult to get high-sticking right. Was it your teammate, the opposition, or in some cases, was it yourself?
“If you get that wrong, and it’s a four-minute (double) minor it can potentially be two goals.”
The discussion about expanded video review also had some suggesting that it could include offside calls, goaltender interference and whether a puck hit the protective netting above the glass—although that didn’t seem to gain as much traction as high-sticking.
Campbell believes one of the issues about expanding video review is that the number of available camera angles is different in each building. A few managers have other concerns as well.
“The whole thing makes me nervous as far as the time of game,” said Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. “Review has been a good addition to our league, but I think we have to be careful how far we take it. Too many men on the ice penalties? An icing that was missed 80 seconds before a goal was scored?
“I think we have to go slowly here.”
Another major topic of conversation Wednesday was the use of spin-o-ramas in the shootout—something that has become quite popular this season. The moves will continue to be allowed, but goals will only count if the puck doesn’t stop at all during the attempt.
A controversial spin-o-rama goal by Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis against Chicago last week prompted the discussion.
“The interpretation is if the puck stops dead it’s no goal, dead play,” said Campbell. “The hard part is interpreting the puck stopping and it will be interpreted by video review. When we first introduced shootouts the challenge was they were new and we had a number of questions to answer.
“This is one of the last lingering questions, what’s acceptable and what is not.”
It was a pretty busy three days for the league as a number of new initiatives were proposed. Commissioner Gary Bettman outlined a five-point plan to deal with the treatment of concussions and put more onus on organizations and coaches for on-ice behaviour while the GMs called for stricter enforcement of boarding and charging penalties and heavier suspensions.
However, that didn’t keep players from continuing to make questionable plays. Boston’s Brad Marchand and San Jose’s Dany Heatley are each facing discipline after delivering blow to an opponent’s head on Tuesday night.
“It’s an emotional, physical game and there are only 690 people in the world making a great living at it,” said Tallon. “There’d be more people playing if there wasn’t the emotion involved. That’s what happens—smart guys make dumb choices sometimes based on what happened in the past.
“You can’t take all of that out. If the emotion comes out then it becomes pretty bland.”
Concussions have been a major story during a season that has witnessed approximately 80 players felled by a head injury. When the GMs convene for meetings again next March they hope decisions made here will see those numbers reduced, but there’s no guarantee it will happen.
“Not necessarily,” said Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. “A lot of the concussions are happening from accidental hits, they’re happening from the speed of the game. We have to do the best we can to tell players that we’re not going to put up with this. …
“This is a pretty big step in making the game safer. I’m satisfied with what we’ve done here.”