If you’re a hockey purist like I am, the news out of Toronto today is pleasing.
A proposal from Florida general manager Dale Tallon to allow a coach to challenge a perceived missed call by a referee wasn’t debated very long before the GMs at their meetings rejected it.
“I’ll move on, that’s all,” Tallon was quoted as saying in the Globe & Mail. “You win some, you lose some.”
The notion of a coach’s challenge, which was also briefly discussed at the GMs’ previous meeting, really gained prominence a couple weeks ago after a clear missed no-call on a goaltender-interference play involving Toronto forward Colton Orr and Panthers goaltender Scott Clemmensen cost the Panthers a game.
Last week, Bruins head coach Claude Julien was asked about the potential for coach’s challenges, which would probably wind up costing a team its timeout. Julien spelled out the different pitfalls and benefits of such a rule.
“Last year, we lost a game to Columbus because they gave [Milan] Lucic a four-minute high-sticking penalty and it was [the Columbus player's] own teammate’s stick that hit him in the face, and they end up scoring the winning goal on that power play,” said the coach. “Somehow those are kind of clear-cut things that should be revoked. So that’s where you think, should we put a challenge in? I’m not saying we should, because at one point you’ve kind of got to let the referees do their jobs as well.
“We make mistakes as coaches, we make mistakes as players, and it’s almost like we’re not willing to accept a referee making a mistake. And that’s where we’ve got to be careful. If we do it, it’s got to be a win-win situation. One would be having that right call being made, the other part is that you’re giving the referee a second chance to make the right call because he’s on the spot, he’s got to make that call right away. For us, in hindsight, it’s easy to look back at a replay and say it was wrong. But he had to make that call quickly.”
Obviously, most of the GMs saw that there were too many angles to implementing such a policy. As Tallon said: “There was so much involved. When do you do it [challenge a call], how long does it take? It could have expanded into something more than it should be.”
I’ve always said, the best solution to making sure blatant bad calls don’t cost teams games is to have high-quality referees that adhere to a consistent enforcement of the rules. You don’t always see that in the NHL, game to game and night to night. In fact, you don’t see it in any of the four major professional sports these days. In the NFL, it seems like referees tend to use the coach’s challenge and instant replay as a crutch — as in, guess the call and hope there’s a review so it turns out right.
Hopefully without that crutch, NHL officials will bear down and there’ll be less controversy. Everybody, including officials, is entitled to make mistakes. Errors, however, shouldn’t be the norm, and you shouldn’t need a coach’s challenge or technology to do your job for you.