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The best answer to NHL’s video review problem? Stop using it

The NHL has a video review problem with no clear-cut solution. But removing the reviews and putting each play in the hands of the referees and linesmen would be one way to avoid further issues.

During the all-star festivities over the weekend, NHL hockey operations director Colin Campbell hosted an informal meeting involving the All-Star Game on-ice officials and coaches, along with some GMs who were in town for the weekend and others in the league’s hockey ops department.

Much of the meeting dealt with video replay on goaltender interference calls. Campbell showed some examples, which each person had an opportunity to view numerous times from different angles and varying speeds. And guess what? There was still no clear consensus in the room as to what constitutes goalie interference and what does not.

Hours later, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged that part of the problem is that “everyone is overthinking the review.” He also said there will be a memo sent out to the on-ice officials with the following edict when it comes to reviewing goaltender interference challenges: “Take a good look, a quick look, but don’t search it to death.”

The NHL would do well to follow its own advice on this one. Let’s not overthink and overanalyze things here. So that leads to the question: Why even have it in the first place? For everything other than determining whether or not the puck fully crossed the goal line, is video review really doing its job and is it even worth all the trouble and controversy it has caused?

You could make a really good argument for the No side of that particular debate, particularly when you have a case of video review that can be interpreted so many different ways by different people. Isn’t the whole idea to get the call right? The problem here is that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to judgment. Giving people extra time to look at a play before they make that judgment is going to make it any more right or any less wrong.

So, again, why use it? Referees and linesmen are human beings who make mistakes. They’re at the apex of their profession, but not everyone is going to agree with their judgments. It’s debatable whether the league is any further ahead by subjecting its players, coaches and fans to the uncertainty and life-sucking potential of video review, when it still comes down to interpretation anyway.

This is even more the case given the fact that the league has no appetite for taking the goaltender interference calls out of the officials’ hands. There has been the notion that it might be better for those appeals to go directly to the war room in Toronto where one person or a small group of people would make the final decision. “Certainly there was discussion about whether (the NHL) should be given the ability to send stronger messages to the officials,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “Not necessarily usurp their ultimate decision. One of the reasons we’ve kept that decision on the ice is it’s a judgment call. (Referees) Dave Jackson and Wes McCauley were in the meeting today and they focus on things you’ll never see in the video – the player’s body language, the player’s vision, where they’re looking on a particular play, what they’re trying to do. To make those judgments on video, we don’t think is the right way to go.”

Here, here. Could not possibly agree more. So would it not make sense to allow the officials to make their judgments on a play and live with the consequences of those human decisions? That’s essentially what the league is doing anyway.

The same goes with the offside challenges. There has been a movement afoot to amend the offside rule to allow for players whose skates are in the air, but have not broken the plane of the blueline to be deemed onside. Well, OK. It sounds reasonable. But as long as you have video replay and challenges, that will simply serve to only move the goalposts on the problem. Instead of the debate about whether or not the player’s skate was on the ice or a centimeter off, it will now be about whether or not his in-the-air foot broke the plane of the blueline. “It’s certainly not going to eliminate the issue,” Daly said.

Every rule change the NHL makes, it seems, has unintended consequences. For coach’s challenges and video review those still include frustration with consistency and a fan base that seems to have no idea exactly what constitutes goalie interference. So we’re really no further ahead. In fact, it has been a detriment because of how long these things seem to take and the fact that fans sometimes don’t feel they can really celebrate a goal spontaneously for fear of having it overturned upon review. Really doesn’t seem to be worth all the trouble, does it?

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