Opinion: The NHL Needs to do Something About Officiating and Video Review

A controversial call is rather common in the NHL, and so are calls missed by the referees during the game. However, the 2019-2020 season should prove to the NHL that major changes need to occur to the video review and officiating of games. How frequently have fans watched a goalie interference review on a goal, and thought "I don't know what goalie interference is anymore."? It has been incredibly common this season that seemingly obvious calls have gone the other way, with minimal explanation from the league or officials after the game. The most egregious example was between the Blackhawks and Blue jackets, which saw Zach Werenski's overtime winner not count, the Blue Jackets to lose a game that they should have won, and caused Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo to suffer a knee injury. This prompted coach John Torterella to give his signature furious rants to the media, which resulted in a fine (and a conditional fine should he speak ill of the officials over the next year).

Was Torterella's rant the right way to voice his displeasure with the officiating? Absolutely not. However, this comes as a result of the official refusing to add the missed time back onto the clock for completely unknown reasons. The result is a team that feels they are being treated unfairly, and are not receiving any sort of justification from officials or the league. 

If the NHL wants to help their relations with players and coaches, a higher level of communication is a necessity. 

The NHL Department of Player Safety has its own issues, but many cases of suspensions come with a public video explaining their thought process. In those videos, the department explains their thought process, broken down video reviews, and provide a conclusion based on the evidence provided. 

There are over 1,000 NHL games played in a regular season. I am not suggesting that the league review every coach's challenge, goalie interference review, and offside call made throughout the season. However, I believe that coaches should be able to request some sort of explanation from the league regarding some of the more controversial calls. 

In December, Arturri Lehkonen was pushed into Jacob Markstrom by Canucks' defence-man Oscar Fantenberg, and the ensuing goal by Joel Armia was overturned on the grounds of goalie interference despite Lehkonen making an effort to avoid contact with Markstrom. 

What exactly should coach Claude Julien tell Lehkonen when he gets back to the bench? Don't go to the front of the net? 

Coaches need to be provided some level of explanation beyond "there was goalie interference on the play" to help them understand what they are doing wrong. Furthermore, the league should be professional enough to admit when referees and linesmen make a mistake, rather than punishing anyone who calls out poor officiating. 

With a plethora of camera angles, the coach's challenge, and the video review room in Toronto at their disposal, the NHL is more capable than ever to properly officiate games, review plays, and make the right call in many different scenarios. Perfection is still unattainable, since the league is run by humans, but expecting obvious calls to be done properly is a fair expectation of players and coaches. 

Moreover, with a wealth of media available, the league is perfectly capable of explaining their choices and what caused them to come to a certain decision. Teams should also have a right to request an explanation from the league regarding their thought process when reviewing different plays. Without an explanation, teams are being punished for plays that seem legal, and can't identify and fix their mistake in the future. 

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