This week, Todd and Josh discuss refereeing the sixth longest NHL game of all time, review the Panthers’ OT winner overturned for goaltender interference, explain the no call after a high stick bloodies Ekholm, check out a penalty box altercation in the OHL with a happy ending, and attempt to explain hybrid icing.



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Episode Transcript #164 Prognosticating Icing: 

Scouting the Refs is an unscripted audio podcast, designed to be heard. It’s a whole lot more interesting to listen to the audio, but we’re happy to provide a transcription below.  This transcript has been generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain textual or typographical errors. 

Todd: Well, the conference final games have kicked off in a big way. If you want more hockey. Well, the Eastern Conference final certainly got you pointed in the right direction. Not quite the longest game ever, Josh, but four — almost four full periods of overtime before this one was decided. Quite a kick off between the Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.

Josh: Man, what a way to start the conference finals. You get a a double hockey game, a double header, all in one game there. Aa lot of fun and hopefully you were able to stay up and watch it, which was a challenge in itself.

Todd: And the other thing too is that the the stats get a little disjointed in this one. You see some weird numbers in terms of ice time, but of course, let’s give our friends credit who had the most ice time.

Josh: Leading in ice time, were the officials Steve Kozari, Chris Lee, Brad Kovachik, Bevan Mills. With a whopping 139 minutes and 47 seconds of ice time in the game, they get no line changes. They get no breaks. They don’t get to go off for a shift change. They don’t get to pause. They don’t even get to call a timeout. They are working when the teams are resting and they don’t get a break except for the intermission, so kudos to them for hanging in there, staying in position, making the right calls all through the seven periods of hockey that we had. Man, that is quite an undertaking. Hopefully they’re resting up today.

Todd: No off day skate right? No off day skate.

Josh: No, no, no, definitely not for these guys. It’s off day travel, though. They’ll be on the plane and. Man, it’s going to be hard to get comfortable on that flight to where they’re headed next.

Todd: This is the Scouting the Refs podcast. Please make sure you’re following us on our social channels. You’ll find Josh at @ScoutingTheRefs on both Twitter and Instagram. You’ll get me at @ToddLewisSports on both Twitter and Instagram as well. In this week’s episode: a stick in the chops, no call, icing explained, relax and sit down, and how about we bring up goalie interference once again.   

Before we do,  I caught a social post I believe of yours last night, Josh. And I don’t want to say you were pushing a conspiracy theory, but you were… you were kind of poking the bear a little bit. Maybe it’s just, you know, penalty, penalty, penalty, Maurice yells. Penalty, penalty, penalty, Maurice yells, and then two Carolina penalties. You were just pointing out what was taking place? You were doing kind of a summary, right?

Josh: It was just a a timeline of unrelated events that just happened to happen in this particular order, but it’s always fun when you get Paul Maurice behind the bench. Between Maurice and Rod Brind’Amour, this this whole Eastern Conference final is full of guys who will let the refs know what’s going on. Two guys who have a combined $75,000 in fines for talking about the officials over the past few years. So I think when you’ve got these guys going, when they start chirping a little bit, it was just fun to keep tabs on if that had an impact on the game at all or just coincidentally, how it timed out.

Todd: There is a game situation from game one of the Eastern Conference final with Florida and Carolina that I want to get to in a couple of minutes, but let’s go back and look at some of the other incidents from this past week. I want to talk about Edmonton and Vegas first because well, that series is over and Edmonton has gone home. There was a situation in the final game where Mattias Ekholm got clipped in the nose with a high stick from Reilly Smith and if you watch it quickly, he doesn’t move the puck. It’s sort of a backhand swing that is taken at the puck. But there’s no penalty and the double whammy for at home is he makes a nice poke check that gets the puck moved away, but then he gets a stick in the face and no penalty for his trouble.

Josh: Yeah, unfortunately, it was the right call. And Ekholm’s making the argument that he’s bleeding and and I don’t blame him. I mean, look, if if I’m getting cut by a stick. I’m going to chirp the officials too. I’m going to tell them that I got cut on the play, what’s going on here?

Unfortunately for him, though, it was the right call because it was a follow through and the exception for a high stick is when it’s on a legitimate follow through and it doesn’t have to be a shot on goal. It’s just a shooting motion, so that can be clearing the puck out of your end, moving it up ice. That’s what happened here, and it doesn’t even mean that you needed to connect with the puck. You can miss or whiff on the shot slightly like it looked like the defenseman did here.

Ekholm takes a stick in the face and it’s perfectly legal, so yes, it’s one of those situations where even though you’re cut on the play doesn’t mean it’s an automatic penalty because there are exceptions to the high sticking call. And the officials got it right. They didn’t even need to review it. They discussed the play. It was a follow through. And if they did call it on the ice, if they said, hey, you’re cut, we’re gonna take a look at the play and we did want to review it, they’d come to the same conclusion, because clearly there was a follow through on a shooting motion and in those cases, unfortunately we got to live with it and Ekholm had to live with it here. That it sometimes does result in an injury.

Todd: That’s a a frustrating one, so you don’t have to make contact, which is interesting. So I don’t know that there’s going to ever be a chance where players would want to exploit a rule but this would be an interesting one, don’t you think? 

Josh: It would, and there’s that caveat in the rulebook, too, that swinging wildly at a loose puck or a bouncing puck is not considered a shooting motion. So they did address sort of, ‘You can’t just say, hey, I was trying to swing at the puck.’

It has to be a proper shooting motion and because the puck was on the player’s stick before the shooting motion, I think it’s understandable that even though the puck didn’t go where he wanted to, the stick movement was part of a legitimate shot.  You don’t want a defenseman or or somebody else blocking a shot putting their face right in the front.

Todd: Not for any reason.

Josh: It’s a heck of a way to draw some penalties.

Todd: Boy, well, you know, giving it all out on the ice, that’s that’s certainly going above and beyond.  Okay, we had Dave Jackson on with us a couple of weeks ago. We had Don Koharski on with us as well. It’s great to have these former NHL officials come join us and they give us some great insight. They’re doing wonderful work helping the viewers understand penalty calls on both ESPN and the TNT broadcast, and I’m glad both are so engaged this way. If only the National Hockey League and Canadian broadcaster Sportnet would join in, the world would be a much better place as I believe. 

The other part of this is Dave on Twitter is very engaging and very helpful because he had a terrific clip and an explanation, of believe it or not, how the icing rule works and I know it’s confusing, I guess, for some. Fans don’t necessarily understand it and I don’t believe it’s their fault. The hybrid icing rule has been in place for a number of years, but Josh, for those that have missed it, please take us through the process how it works and what the linesmen are looking for on a potential icing play.

Josh: Sure, it’s one of those things that I think we don’t spend a whole lot of time on, but in the playoffs, every play is magnified. Every situation, every face off is so much more important. Especially the icings and with teams not being able to change players, there’s additional significance when they ice the puck. It has changed with the change from the touch icing to the hybrid icing.

The old rule used to be a race to the puck, and if the team that iced the puck gets there first, the icing is waved off. If the other team does, it’s icing; that was pretty straightforward. For the safety of players, after some injuries at the NHL level and at other levels, it was changed to hybrid icing, which is still technically, a race to the puck. It’s not a race to the goal line. It is a race to the puck, only the linesman makes the determination on who would win the race once we get to the face off dot. So once the players are at the hash marks, that’s when the linesman is making that determination as to whether the attacking player or the defending player is going to get to the puck first and they’re considering everything, not only the the straight line guys, but if the puck’s going around the boards if it’s going to wrap around the goal and it’s a an attacking player that’s gonna get there first, the icing is going to be waved off.

So it went from who touched the puck first becomes who’s going to touch the puck first. They make that call at the face off dot, but again, not a race to the dot, not a race to the goal line. It’s a race to the puck still, but the whistle goes for icing when that determination is made when the players are at the face off dot.  So a little more judgment from the linesmen here, but obviously the goal was to protect players. You don’t want those guys skating full speed into the end boards and creating some dangerous situations here, so that’s what we’re looking at with hybrid icing and it was nice of Dave to not only explain the rule, give a little more background, but to show that video clip of the Stars/Kraken situation where there was an icing that some folks seemed to be a little bit confused on why the whistle went and and how it was determined to be icing. 

Todd: So maybe a way to look at it if I can, but because the the linesman are considering the speed and the angle that the players are moving and as you mentioned the the way the puck is traveling as well. The finish line for icing used to be the goal line. Would the finish line now be where the dots are? Not that I’m suggesting we put another line on the ice because there’s enough stuff with virtual and otherwise, but is that the best way to look at it?

Josh: Not exactly because it’s where the decision is made, but it’s not necessarily the finish line because it’s not which guy gets to the face off dot first. You could have a player that reaches there first but is traveling far slower than the opposing player and the linesman is saying, ‘Look player A got to the dot first, but Player B’s going a lot faster, that’s the guy who’s going to touch the puck,’ and those are the things they’re considering. So yeah, that’s I think, why some fans struggle with it that it’s a race. The finish line is still the puck, but this is like running the 100 meters and then calling the race at the 80 meter mark and saying this guy was gonna get there first.

Todd: It’s the decision line, not the finish line. I’m sure that clears it up for some and probably complicates it more for others, but we’re we’re trying really. We are. We’re trying, we’re doing our best here.

Josh: We need Eddie Olczyk to decide. The Kentucky Derby like a a couple furlongs ahead.

Todd: That’s it! They’re prognosticating theicing! I love that.

Okay, there was an incident in an Ontario Hockey League playoff game this week. The game was between the London Knights and the Peterborough Petes. London Knights player Ryan Humphrey got called for a high sticking penalty and it was clearly visible on the replay that he was not guilty of high sticking. So, okay, I can appreciate that Ryan is a little bit upset, but after going to the box, he kind of went off the charts in terms of how incensed he was at the officials with a little screaming and a little yelling and a little gesturing and expressing his displeasure.

Well, it also carried over to penalty box attendant Gord Lowes, who was trying to get him to settle down and and relax and sit in his spot. Well, Humphrey continued his tirade and good for Gord Lowes for giving it right back to him as good as he got from the teenager. Humphrey would make a couple more trips to the penalty box during this period. And all this was caught on camera and rolled back on the television broadcast, which was pretty funny because it resulted in a happy ending by the end of of Humphrey’s third penalty, the two were laughing and joking and having a moment together. So everyone worked out that it was okay. But it got me thinking, Josh, I know that there are penalties for abuse of officials and the like for on ice officials. What about those that work in the penalty box?

Josh: That is a great question, one that I don’t think we’ve had happen, at least not at the NHL level, that I can remember where we had an altercation between and off-ice official and a player that necessitated that sort of response. It would be covered under Rule 75 for unsportsmanlike conduct, and it’s funny because abuse of officials doesn’t necessarily fit in. They are off-ice officials, but you know, are we considering them to be officials and and perhaps depending on the situation of the circumstances, they could.

Either way, Rule 75 has some pretty blanket terms in there around using obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any person, so we’ve got that. ‘Any person’ that makes it pretty broad from an application standpoint that regardless of whatever else is in the rulebook or whether or not we’re considering the officials to be the on ice officials or off ice officials, because technically the rule book addresses more or less the on ice officials when they’re referring to officials and referees and linesmen, but at least the unsportsmanlike conduct gives them that blanket of any person. I mean, for all we know, Todd, it would make sense with an off-ice official, or maybe a member of the opposing team staff. I don’t think we’re gonna get to the point where we’re doing it towards fans, but I guess if you direct an obscene gesture at a fan in the front row, you could potentially pick up an unsportsmanlike.

Todd: Never say never. Well, I I thought this was worthy of mention this this situation too. And again, we’re really happy that it worked out. And I understand the the adrenaline flowing and Ryan Humphrey getting upset and Gord Lowes – who’s who’s been doing this for who knows how long and good for for him, for not, you know, taking the abuse – but I’m glad that the two sorted it out, had a conversation, and and were able to laugh about it afterwards.

But it also gives us pause to remember that there are a lot of people working in a lot of rinks around the world, not just in North America, that devote their time and energy for probably very few dollars to work as off-ice officials because they love the game too. So show them some love and and give them a little bit of respect they’ve earned.

Josh: Absolutely. And a lot of these guys and I can’t speak for all, at least at the NHL level, they they vary by building and the the buildings and the teams are responsible for bringing those guys in, but the off-ice officials often are former officials, whether amateur — I know a lot of USA Hockey officials in this area are off ice officials at the pro buildings —  so you’ve got guys who are knowledgeable about the game, who’ve been around it their entire lives, and who likely have a strong officiating background. If anybody knows what’s going on or or knows how things work out on the ice or what’s expected, I think you’ve got some guys that are pretty knowledgeable in these roles, maybe they’re a little advanced in age. Maybe they’re not keeping pace out there, but that database upstairs is full of all kinds of informations of game situations and playing rules and things like that. So some smart guys out there, some guys who are, like you mentioned, often doing this because of a love of the game and wanting to be a part of things they want to be invisible. They don’t want to become part of what’s going on, but you know, these are these are good guys who really have spent a lot of time around the game, — guys and girls, I should say —  who spend a lot of time around the game and are are looking to give back, stay involved and perform a very necessary role in hockey.

Todd: Alright, so let’s get to the goalie interference in the Panthers in Carolina Hurricanes game. The game is over now, right? It did end it. I yeah, I think it’s over.

Josh: Is this one going to stand?

Todd: The sixth longest overtime game in playoff history, Matthew Tkachuk finally scores the game winner. We all thought it might be over much earlier than that. However, once again, though Ryan Lomberg tucks the puck into the net, our old friend goalie interference comes into the equation. Now, this is in overtime, so this is not a coaches challenge. Correct, Josh?

Josh: That is correct. Every goal that is scored in the final minute of regulation or at any point in overtime is automatically reviewed by the league’s situation room for those criteria that are eligible for a coaches challenge. So they’re looking at every single goal to see: Was it on side? Was there goaltender interference?  Was there a potential missed stoppage where the whistle should have blown prior to the goal going in? So this is all automatic. It’s happening as soon as the puck goes in. That the league is taking a look. 

Todd: So the looking goes on, and they see that there is contact in the crease between a Panther player’s skate and the goaltender. I watched it once, twice, and it seemed to me that it was a pretty obvious call that this goal was not going to be allowed. Let’s mention again, there’s a terrific piece on The Athletic website from Sean McIndoe that really helps explain goaltender interference as well. But let’s go through it. There was the key parts of this were there was contact and it occurred in the goal crease. .

Josh: Correct, and when you look that there is contact and you look at where it happened, if it’s in the blue paint then you know which section of the goaltender interference rule you’re looking at. So if you want to be confused, at least start with the right part of the rules. So we’re looking at contact in the goal crease and in this case the Florida player entered on his own. He skates right in.

Now you have the defending player, Drury, he’s blocking him in, he’s playing defense. He’s not allowing White to exit where he’s staying because he’s holding his ground. But White has options. He can stop, he can go back the way he came in. He’s not forcing him into the goaltender, but he is standing his ground and NHL rules often allow players to be entitled to the space that they occupy. Drury’s entitled to defend at the top of the crease. White has to find a way not to continue to contact the goaltender.

So because he entered on his own, because he was the person who put himself in the crease – Drury didn’t push him in there – the league felt that he was responsible for the contact. I can’t argue with the call and like you, Todd, when I looked at it, I said, ‘Oh, this one’s coming back’ as the as the fans are streaming out of the seats and out of the building I wanted to scream, ‘Wait!’

Todd: So, it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of contact, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t significant. I don’t know that — I don’t know, this is all supposition right now, but I don’t know if it really made a difference in whether or not Frederick Andersen was going to stop the puck or not, but we’ll never know, so the play has to be disallowed.

Josh: Right. And that’s the hard part too, because we we can’t make judgment calls on what would have happened. I mean was was the goaltender moving to his right anyway where he would have been taken out of position on his own? Or was it that initial contact that was skate on skate that threw him off balance that when he went to the right he overshot and slid a little further than he wanted to?

It’s so hard to try to see it, was this a shot that would have been stopped by the goaltender had it not been for the interference, and I think that’s why the league leans into the rule of a player establishing a position in the crease or having a significant presence in the crease to prevent the goaltender from doing his job. It becomes, ‘Has the goaltender been impacted in any way’ and not necessarily  ‘Would he have made that particular save’? Because you’re right, Todd, tt it becomes so hard to try to say, ‘Well, that one wasn’t going to get stopped anyway.’ Well, it doesn’t matter. The goaltender couldn’t do what he needed to do to even attempt to make a save on this play, so it’s no goal. 

Todd: And I guess it it all sort of works out in the end because what 3-4 hours later Matthew Tkachuk scored and the Florida Panthers win anyway.

Josh: Holy cow! That that puck went in and I’m immediately looking going, ‘Oh, please let nobody be in the crease. Was it onside? I’m trying to get ahead of the Situation room here because youu want to get the call, right? And it’s an exciting moment, but doesn’t it just feel like anymore you you’ve got an overtime goal, the first thing you do is take a deep breath, hold your breath, and wait to hear, ‘The play is under review!’