The NHL's GMs are enjoying their annual spring meeting in Florida, and one of the questions they're pondering is the expansion of video replay to include goaltender interference. The GMs have a history of being slow to implement change, and they're no different on this issue, which they've been talking about for years, and the answer has always been the same: they're comfortable with the inherent subjectivity of the game and are willing to let the on-ice officials make the bulk of the decisions.
And that's fine. But when the league is dragging its heels in embracing a technology that will benefit its referees in the execution of their jobs, you start to wonder if it really has the best interests of the officials in mind.
Many, if not most hockey people believe the increased speed of the game has made the NHL more dangerous. They're not wrong. But that speed has also made it impossible for the officials to enforce all the rules. Even the addition of a second referee hasn't made things better. And since there's so little space on the ice, the addition of another ref on the playing surface is a non-starter among hockey types. There are no better referees out there, no special techniques to change them into mistake-proof human beings.
This is why allowing the officials to use a video tablet at the penalty boxes to assist them on getting calls correct is a perfect answer to the problem. If you talk to referees off the record – and some of them are willing to do so – they'll tell you they want to get the call right more than anyone. If you give them a tool with which to do that, you're not insulting their abilities – you're enhancing them. Officials already reverse calls, so why not allow them to do so with the aid of a view of the play they couldn't possibly get on their own?
At this year's spring GM meetings, the game's power brokers discussed whether to expand video review to include goals scored on goalie interference, and this is a perfect example of where the league can empower officials. There are legitimate reasons to be wary of increased video review – for instance, the increased time additional reviews would add to each game and the overall entertainment experience – but they're overshadowed by the sour taste left in the mouths of fans when video review (which always gets shown on the JumboTron and on broadcasts) makes clear the referees got it wrong.
Nobody is saying video review should permeate every aspect of NHL officiating. But when the game has become about getting traffic to the front of the net and rattling goaltenders with obstruction and body contact, goalie interference is one of the most crucial calls an official can make.
Preventing them from calling those plays correctly doesn't do anything for the good of the NHL, and it certainly doesn't do anything for the image of their most beleaguered employees.