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Just Make the Right Call.

February 15, 2010

Every professional sports league has incidents of failed officiating. It’s human nature that mistakes get made every now and then, but when those mistakes occur time and time again, that’s when fans begin to get upset.

I cannot stand the inconsistent officiating in the NHL. Hockey is without a doubt my favorite sport, but I am baffled beyond belief that the NHL fails to make the correct call so often. The worst part of it all is that when a mistake is made, the NHL does not own up to the mistake. The league does not punish the officials that made the wrong call and they do not hold them accountable. Without holding the refs accountable, mistakes will be made again and again until the NHL steps in and does something about it.

Sports fans have seen refs in other sports make mistakes that affect the outcome of a game and those officials that made the mistakes were punished. NFL referee Ed Hochuli made an incorrect call when he ruled that a Jay Cutler pass was incomplete, instead of what it should have been, a fumble. Hochuli acknowledged his mistake and was held accountable by the NFL. That would never be seen in the NHL.

My biggest gripe with the NHL not disciplining officials is with their bogus “Intent to Blow the Whistle” rule. Basically, in laments terms, the rule says that when the ref believes the play is over he can say so in his head without blowing the whistle. Then what is the point of having a whistle? Why did I grow up playing hockey and learning that you never quit until you hear a whistle? You play the game from whistle to whistle…unless you’re in the NHL.

Just this season the NHL’s ridiculous rule has cost a team a game. Brad May of the Detroit Red Wings scored a goal, but the ref disallowed it because he intended to blow the whistle. Watch the replay and tell me where he intended to blow the whistle? May gets a rebound, shoots the puck at the net, and it clearly gets past the goalie and goes across the line well before the whistle is blown. The ref said it was no goal because he intended to blow the whistle. If that were the case, would he have been intending to blow the whistle as May was shooting the puck? Why would you blow the whistle while a player is shooting the puck? And on top of it all, the replay shows the puck in the net before a whistle, but in the NHL, the referee can overrule the replay if he intended to blow the whistle. So tell me this, what is the point of having a replay system to get the call correct if the referee can just overrule it anytime he sees fit? Couldn’t a ref just claim he intended to blow the whistle on every play? This dumb rule gives the referees way too much power.

Of course, the NHL did nothing to discipline the ref or hold him accountable. This isn’t the first or second time that this has happened. It occurred once in a playoff game that sent a series between the Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks to a game seven. It also occurred in a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What is almost worse than the dumb “Intent to Blow the Whistle” rule is the wildly inconsistent goal calls by NHL refs. The NHL rulebook states that the entire puck must cross the line for a goal to count, now tell me, how is this a goal:

But these are not goals?

None of those replays clearly show the puck completely crossing the line, therefore the call should be no goal. Yet in the NHL, sometimes they count, sometimes they don’t. It’s the luck of the draw. The NHL should relocate their headquarters from Toronto to Las Vegas. In the Detroit and Dallas game, the head ref standing right on the goal line with the best view waves off the goal, but the second ref and linesman that are at least 30 feet away, overrule the head ref’s call. Shouldn’t the official closest to the play with the best view make the call, especially if he is the head ref on the ice?

But wait, there’s more. If you’re a Washington Capital player, please make note that you cannot check a player into their own goalie and score a goal, but if another team does it to you, it’s okay and the goal will stand.

Here a Philadelphia Flyer checks a Capital player into the Washington goalie. The ref ruled that the check was clean and since the Capital player initiated the contact with the goalie, the goal would stand (NOTE: This call occurred in game seven on a playoff series).

Yet just last week, Alex Ovechkin made a clean check on a Montreal Canadiens defenseman, knocking him into the Montreal goalie, the puck slide into the net, and the ref waved the goal off. The explanation was that Ovechkin hit the defenseman into the goalie, initiated the contact and caused the goaltender interference. No goal.

I just wish he NHL would be consistent and get the call right. Make a decision on the rules and stick to it. And above all, get the call on the ice correct. If replay clearly shows the puck in the net, completely across the goal line before the whistle blows, then it should be a goal. The call on the ice needs to be correct. That’s the point of video replay…getting the call correct! And please, please Gary Bettman, when your referees make a mistake, hold them accountable! Sports fans already think of the NHL as a second rate league, let’s not make it become the truth. Just get it right.

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