TORONTO — The NHL’s hockey operations department will have the final say on what has become its most hotly contested rule beginning Wednesday.
The league’s board of governors rubber-stamped the change to the process of video reviews of goalie interference Tuesday by a 31-0 vote.
General managers had proposed taking the ultimate decision on goalie interference challenges away from referees on the ice during their meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., last week in hopes of finding a greater level of consistency.
The NHL Players’ Association, by way of the NHL/NHLPA competition committee, provided a thumbs up in short order before the board of governors, which required unanimous approval to make an in-season switch to the rulebook, gave the final go-ahead.
Coaches have been allowed to challenge goalie interference calls since 2015-16, but some head-scratching decisions involving high-profile teams and players this season forced the league to act quickly with the playoffs just around the corner.
In addition to the situation room having the final say, a retired ref will also join the group at the NHL’s Toronto office.
Up until now, referees looked at a video tablet by the penalty box while speaking with hockey ops via headset on goalie interference challenges, but had the final call.
The NHL stressed at the GM meetings that it was overwhelmingly in agreement with its on-ice officials on most calls, but added a tweak was necessary.
The league hoped to have the new review process in place in time for the post-season, but will now have more runway to iron out any issues.
“It will be an improvement to the extent that the managers and the coaches were looking for consistency,” commissioner Gary Bettman said last week in Florida. “Hockey operations, we have to wear whatever decision is made anyway.”
Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was strongly in favour of giving control to the situation room.
“If you have a smaller group of people making the decision, you should get more consistency,” he said last week. “It will become clearer over time whether we like the calls or not. That goes for people in the league, media, fans.
“Because it’s the same guys over and over and over making the decisions, I would expect you’ll get more consistency instead of two calls that are very, very similar resulting in opposite calls.”
Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake liked the idea of having a referee in the situation room to give an official’s perspective.
“Once you go to video you take emotions out of it,” he said. “But when you get an official with a background of what it feels like to be on the ice and make those calls in an instant, it probably flows with the consistency aspect we’re looking for.”