The NHL is expanding its video review process to allow an unlimited number of coaching challenges to address concerns raised after several notable missed calls during the playoffs.
The new freedoms, however, come at a price.
On Thursday, the league’s general managers approved lifting limits on the number of times a coach can challenge a play during the game for goalie interference, offside and added the element of possible missed calls that would have resulted in a stoppage in play before a goal was scored.
On the downside, the first challenge that proves unsuccessful will result in a minor penalty. A second unsuccessful challenge in the same game would result in a double minor.
The league also will allow officials review major penalties to determine whether the call was accurate. Upon review, the referee would then have the option to reduce a major penalty to a minor.
Allowing stoppages in play to be reviewed comes after San Jose won Game 3 of the Western Conference final when officials missed a hand pass immediately before Erik Karlsson scored in overtime. Under the new rule, the play would have been reviewed automatically because all plays are reviewed in the final minute of a game and overtime.
“The theory is, we don’t want lots and lots of challenges. We don’t want to disrupt the flow of the game,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in announcing a series of changes that were approved a day before the league opens its draft in Vancouver.
“We only want challenges where it’s crystal clear that an egregious mistake has been made,” Bettman added. “If it’s, well, maybe it could be, maybe it shouldn’t, then there shouldn’t be a challenge.”
Allowing officials to review major penalties would have had the potential to change the complexion of Game 7 in a first-round series between Vegas and San Jose.
With Vegas leading 3-0, Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin was assessed a major penalty for a hit on San Jose’s Joe Pavelski, which the league later told the Golden Knights was not the right call. The Sharks scored four times on the ensuing major penalty and won 5-4 in overtime.
In that instance, the referee could have reviewed the call and determined whether to reduce the penalty to a two-minute minor.
Bettman said only 39 non-fighting major penalties were called last season.
The new rules, however, would not have allowed reviewing a missed penalty that led to the decisive goal in St. Louis’ 2-1 win over Boston in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Blues forward Tyler Bozak wasn’t penalized for tripping up Boston’s Noel Acciari seconds before David Perron scored.
In addition, referees can review double-minor penalties for high-sticking to determine whether the player was struck by an opponent or his own or teammate’s stick. If determined it was not an opposing stick, then the penalty would be rescinded, something Bettman said would have happened only four times last season.
GMs also approved rules to reduce the number of faceoffs in the neutral zone. Faceoffs will now be held in the offensive zone even if the attacking team was responsible for the puck going out of bounds.
Teams awarded a power play will now have the choice to determine which offensive zone circle to hold the ensuing faceoff.
The league also added a safety rule, requiring a player to either leave the ice or retrieve his helmet should his helmet come off during a play. The only exception comes if the player is in a position to play the puck when his helmet falls off.
Opponents will be issued a minor penalty for roughing if they’re deemed to have knocked off a player’s helmet on purpose.
John Wawrow, The Associated Press