GLENDALE, Ariz. — In theory, the idea of adding coaches’ challenges to the NHL this season was a good one. In practice, however, it hasn’t been so clear-cut — much like the calls that are being challenged.
Entering the All-Star break last week, there had been 150 challenges, with only 38 calls overturned. Ninety-two of the challenges were for goaltender interference, and only 16 were overturned (the others were for offsides plays that led to goals). The problem is two-fold: First, the challenges are often taking far too long, disrupting the flow of the game. But far more importantly, because the referees at the arena handle the reviews on iPads, goaltender interference is still open to interpretation, which is maddeningly inconsistent.
Rather than send reviews back to a centralized “war room” in New York or Toronto, the decision is still in the referees’ hands. And based on many eyebrow-raising calls — including the surprising overturning of Marian Hossa’s apparent first-period goal on Friday — that’s problematic.
“I thought that was [a] joke,” Hossa said. “I tried to battle in front of the net and I don’t have any intention to touch the goalie, just try to battle through two guys and put the puck in the net. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the playoffs, if there’s going to be calls after calls after calls. But I don’t think it’s good for the league.”
Jonathan Toews, whose second goal of the game gave the Hawks a 5-4 overtime victory on Thursday, was more diplomatic.
“I guess in this case, we’re a little bit biased, given the fact that it went against us,” Toews said. “You hear a lot of talk about [how] we want more goals in the game, but it’s still a debatable one we saw tonight. So I don’t now. I guess it’s not the right thing to get into the details too much. You have to respect the decision the officials make at the end of the day. That’s the way it goes.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville — who flew into a rage when the goal was disallowed — was far more calm and rational about it after the game. Winning surely helped him get over it.
“I think the rules are in place, and that’s what they’re there for,” said Quenneville, who, like nearly all coaches, is an advocate for coach’s challenges in general. “The interpretation, everyone has an opinion on it. We’ll move on.”
When asked if the league should centralize challenges so that the same people are interpreting the rule every time, Quenneville shrugged.
“Maybe with time,” he said. “The first year was a big first step. You have a lot of opinions at the end of it all to sort things out. Whatever’s best for the game, and getting it right, is the whole idea. I’m not worried about it right now.”