Time To Change Review Process

NHL, I’ve had it with your goal review process.  Yes, I’m a bitter Blue Jacket fan, but I am also troubled about the way your system has evolved.  No longer do you just look to see if the puck actually crossed the goal line, you now interest yourself in things like the height of the stick on deflections, the timing of the referee whistle, or if the goal was off its posts.  It was complex enough when you were merely looking to see if the puck crossed the line.  I know you had some early issues because you added more cameras to give you more angles and views, you mandated high definition equipment to provide sharper images, and you instructed your officials not to climb on the back of the net to get a better view of the play.  The last action was needed because the officials were obstructing the video equipment, telling me that the view from a camera is more important than the eyes of a seasoned professional.

So last night in Columbus, you had a difficult situation.  Instead of two referees working the game, you were down to one, Don Koharski.  Brian Pochmara hurt his shoulder very early in the game and had to leave.  I was at the game and as soon as that happened, I said to my friend, “This is going to be my worst nightmare, Don Koharski working a game alone.”  The game went along quickly without many whistles for the first two periods.  In fact, Koharski called all but one of the game’s penalties against New Jersey.  He did have trouble managing the line changes, but that is very tough to do alone.  But hey, he was doing what he could.

But then New Jersey put in a controversial goal in the third period.  I say controversial because your guys in Toronto put the play under review.  And you reviewed it and noticed that Columbus goalie Steve Mason had the puck trapped under his left pad for a second or two.  Your review showed this only from the a forward camera, a different viewpoint than that of Don Koharski.  So if that viewpoint showed a stopped puck, what in the heck was Koharski doing allowing play to continue if he couldn’t see the puck?

Your review continued and you noticed that the net was knocked off its posts well before the puck crossed the line.  You saw it and even those of us at Nationwide got to see it, a rare event for an Arena that emphasizes parachuting burritos instead of hockey itself.  But hey, there was consensus last night on this particular play that two things occurred which should have nullified this goal.

But instead of pointing this out to Koharski, you simply shrugged your shoulders and said, “I dunno, you make the call, Don.  Even though you’re working this game alone without another pair of referee eyes, our video equipment cannot be trusted here.  We are going to leave it up to you.”

Do you keep transcripts of your reviews?  I think you should because you could learn something from them.  You could still tell Koharski to make his own call, but you could ask him to explain what he saw at that time when making his call.  If says he saw the puck go over the line, you might want to say, “But Don, even though the puck crossed the line, our video shows that the net was off the posts then and the play should have been blown dead.”  Or you could say, “Don, our video clearly shows that the puck was trapped long enough by Steve Mason and you should have stopped play before the puck was put into the net.  Are you sure you want to stand by your call?”

Don Koharski is a senior official, with years of experience and knowledge.  But older referees tend to be cock-sure of themselves and don’t care much for having their calls reviewed.  You let Mick McGeough stay too long in the NHL and you were embarrassed by his calls in his final season.  You have no trouble pushing the younger guys around, telling them how to call and manage games, but you’re also having trouble recruiting new officials into your group.  Maybe they don’t want to work your games because you are so inconsistent with your entire review process.

Perhaps it’s time to keep transcripts of the review calls and make them available to teams.  This would make the Toronto crews accountable, just like the on-ice crews.

It’s also time to enhance the review process by making it a two-way communication process.  The on-ice official gives his take, telling what he sees and what he is thinking, while the Toronto crew gives its take, what it views and what it is thinking.

I believe the review process is important and should continue.  The game is too fast to discontinue it.  You have, for all practical purposes, discontinued the goal judges.  It’s time to take another  step and review the entire process and fix it.  You can’t let individuals make calls that your review equipment easily refutes.  The camera doesn’t lie, as the saying goes.

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