NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman held his annual State of the League address prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
He covered the Olympics, expansion, and overtime, as well as the Coach’s Challenge.
“The coach’s challenge similarly achieved the objective we had hoped, and that was getting the better call made. Simply stated, with or without video review, we are expected, our officials are expected to get it right. The coach’s challenge has helped us do that even more than usual.”
“Interestingly, the first year of the coach’s challenge confirmed that our officials do an outstanding job and affirmed that their real-time calls are overwhelmingly, not always, but overwhelmingly correct.”
During the regular season, there were 266 Coach’s Challenges, with 68 (25%) overturning the initial call on the ice. Of those, 31 of 152 (20%) were overturned for goaltender interference, while 35 of 88 (40%) were overturned for plays that were offside.
Through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ve seen 22 Coach’s Challenges, 7 of which were overturned (32%). None of the 10 interference challenges were overturned. For offside plays, 7 of the 12 (58%) overturned the original call.
Why the increase in the playoffs? Teams have gotten better at evaluating the play and deciding when to challenge. Goals are at a premium, so there are fewer opportunities to challenge — and each challenge means that much more.
Bettman was asked about the loss of goals due to plays technically offside but not egregiously so.
“The notion, and I’m glad you asked the question, that we call back a goal because there’s a toe over the line, the rule is the rule. I have no doubt that if we didn’t get it right, but the toe was over the line, there would be a lot of screaming about the fact that we got the call wrong.”
“So if you think back to the Tampa game where everybody was focused on that offside call, the fact of the matter is, everybody in Pittsburgh would have been screaming if we didn’t get the call right.”
“Whether or not we use video replay, the fact is there are so many cameras that television has, that they get to see it.”
“The better question may be, ‘Do you want to have an offside rule?’ I’m not advocating that we should get rid of the offside rule. As for the notion: ‘the rule was only violated by a little.’ Either you enforce the rule or you don’t.”
“If we don’t get it right, we say, ‘It was only over a little’; the other team, fans, everybody is going to say: ‘How are you enforcing your rules?’”
Some argue that the NHL has a greater challenge in enforcing the rules surrounding penalties, particularly the obstruction fouls that were called tightly after the lockout. When asked about a crackdown on hooking, holding, and interference, Bettman demurred.
“The fact is the game has never been faster or more competitive or entertaining,” he said.
Perhaps not, but with a stronger, more consistent standard, couldn’t it be even better?