Since the Coach’s Challenge was instituted in 2015, decisions on challenges for goaltender interference were made solely by the on-ice officials. That’s about to change.
Starting in the playoffs, the referees’ calls will be limited to those on the ice. Officials will no longer have the final say on reviews.
Challenged plays will go to the NHL’s Situation Room for a final ruling. The room is run by Hockey Ops: Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy, Kris King, Rod Pasma, and Kay Whitmore. None of them have NHL officiating experience, though Pasma is a former officiating manager whose father-in-law, Bryan Lewis, was a former NHL referee who spent 11 years as the NHL’s Director of Officiating.
The league is planning on adding a retired referee to the Situation Room staff to assist in making those calls. The league currently employs a handful of former referees as Officiating Managers, including Paul Devorski, Don Koharski, Bill McCreary, Mick McGeough, Rob Shick, and Don Van Massenhoven. Per Frank Seravalli, the Officiating Managers would cover the Situation Room on a rotating basis.
“Since the adoption of the Coach’s Challenge, there have been relatively few controversial calls on goaltender interference – perhaps half a dozen of approximately 170 challenges this season – the objective is to be as close to perfect as possible,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “Goaltender interference ultimately is a judgment call.”
“The recommended change is intended to help resolve the rare cases in which the Situation Room and the referees might have different opinions of a particular play and is intended to produce more predictability for our players and coaches.”
Fans looking for a more consistent answer might be glad to see the same group deciding all challenges. Consistency in those decisions can also help to provide additional guidance to the on-ice officials by way of examples made in each of their rulings.
“What I’m hearing from the managers is they want consistency,” said NHL VP Colin Campbell, who heads up the Situation Room. “It’s not who is doing it, it’s that we’ve got five guys [in the Situation Room] that participate in it, two that do 90 per cent of [the reviews] and in the playoffs we’ve got one individual that does them all.”
“My opinion on that is you can put the King of England in [the Situation Room]. The team, the coach, the players, the fanbase are not going to like the answer,” NHL VP Colin Campbell said after Tuesday’s GM meetings. “My opinion is it doesn’t matter who is giving you the answer, they’re not going to like the answer if it’s something in a key game.”
This shift will narrow the number of people weighing in, hopefully improving consistency and refining the standard.
Kris King, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, feels consistency isn’t an issue since the refs and the Situation Room are often on the same page.
“It’s not really a problem from our side because for the rest of those we’re seeing the same thing,” King said. “The referees are looking at the replays, they’re taking our direction, asking us for our opinion, but we’re also following the rules of how it’s written out where they get the final call.”
The officials are on board with the upcoming change.
Bill Daly said earlier today that Dan O'Halloran, president of the NHL Officials' Association, has confirmed that the referees' union is comfortable with shift of goaltender interference final call to Situation Room.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 21, 2018
We can only hope that Hockey Ops will follow Player Safety’s lead and release videos explaining their rulings.
No changes are being made to the offside rule or the procedures around offside challenges, which are currently made collaboratively with the Situation Room and on-ice linesmen.
The shift still needs to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee before it can take effect. The league plans to have it in place for the postseason.