The jubilation from the puck finding the back of the net. The overwhelming rush that follows a massive check. The satisfaction of witnessing dazzling moves and skating precision. The peace of a beautifully flowing game rolling smoothly like a perfectly played rhythm.
These are the feelings that a hockey fan has while watching a game. The vast range of emotions that arise within a tilt is what can make the sport addicting. But the NHL is suppressing these unique forms of joy by implementing challenge rules that harm the game more than help it.
Instead of utter excitement, fans now often feel uncertainty when their team scores a goal because coaches can challenge for potential goaltender interference or offsides.
In theory, these would improve the quality of the game. No one wants to see the referee blow a call that costs a team the game. Video replay is becoming a key component of all of the major sport leagues and should help correct any blatantly wrong calls.
But in the NHL, replay is revoking goals due to technicalities and obscure evidence. In many cases throughout the season, a coach will challenge a play, claiming it was offsides and the referees will spend nearly 10 minutes staring at iPads beside the ice. This in itself destroys the flow of the game, ruining one of the best qualities of the sport: its fast pace.
Meanwhile, as fans fall asleep in their seats to the tune of Jeopardy, they STILL do not make the correct call. If a review takes longer than a couple minutes, the video evidence should be considered inconclusive. But sometimes, they stop play for an unbearable length of time and still overturn a call.
They are looking too deeply into what the rule technically means rather than its intention. Goals are being disallowed because a skate blade may have been lifted slightly off the ice or a puck may have grazed a skater’s stick. Emphasis on “may.” No linesmen could ever see this with the naked eye, as it is so miniscule that it is irrelevant to the purpose of the rule.
The NHL has spent the past few years trying to figure out new ways to increase scoring and raise excitement in an already fast-paced league. They have pondered changes to goalie equipment, net sizes and numerous other possibilities in hopes of filling games with more scoring. Whether the sport needs more goals is debatable, but isn’t constantly disallowing goals over uncertain replay calls contradictory to their recent objective? If they want to increase goal scoring, one easy method is to abolish coaches’ challenges.
The league is also making this mistake in regard to goaltender interference challenges, as they take away goals over misunderstandings in the rule. There are many discrepancies in what constitutes illegal contact with the goaltender, but the main gist of the rule asks whether a player prevented the goalie from having an opportunity to make a save.
With the new challenge rule, sometimes referees overturn goals where a player barely touches the netminder, while other times the goalie will get fully run over and a goal will stand. The inconsistencies are making it difficult for coaches to decide to challenge a play. Since they are so unsure, coaches will challenge for even the slightest bit of contact, as the call will be based on the interpretation of the referee.
NHL GM’s met this week to discuss the inconsistency with the goalie interference call as they try to correct the flawed system. But no matter what fixes they attempt to make, these decisions will remain subjective and thus controversial.
The NHL put replay in place to reduce terrible missed calls, not so they can sit in the penalty box debating plays all night. Goalie interference is so subjective in most instances that having video review for it provides no benefit. For offsides, if an illegal entry is not obvious enough, there is no reason to call off a goal.
The new challenge rules are doing the opposite of what they want, as they are slowing down the game and reducing scoring. The amount of times a challenge helps correct an atrocious call is so rare in comparison to the times it creates more controversy.
Dylan Barrett is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.