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NHL Coach's Challenge: The Definition of Insanity

October 17, 2016, 11:14 AM ET [3 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain may or may not have been the original source of the famous quotation, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

Well, whoever said it, the notion is accurate. The opening weekend of the National Hockey League regular season showed that even the most glaring issues in the flawed-from-the-beginning coach's challenge system have not been corrected.

The NHL has added video monitors for coaches on the benches -- one of which malfunctioned on opening night and necessitated the referees to have the other bench shut theirs off in order to ensure fairness -- but they still apparently can't afford a larger monitor than the tablets the on-ice officials use. It would have been such a simple and much needed change to install a larger monitor at the scorer's table, and have the reviewing official sit there to see what he needs to see to either uphold or reverse a call.

In the meantime, the serial problems with Rule 69 (goaltender interference) did not magically disappear for the NHL after another offseason spent pretending there's nothing wrong with the way the Rule set is written and intepreted or misinterpreted. We've already had a situation where what should have been a disallowed goal was missed twice -- first on the ice and then upon review -- and another almost identical situation in another game where the opposite call was made. It underscores the convoluted nature of the rule, and it makes us all look bad when it goes uncorrected year after year.

If nothing else, we need to clarify what constitutes incidental contact with the goaltender, whether a slight nudge by a defender (as opposed to a heavy shove) cancels out such contact in the crease initiated by an attacking player who does not vacate the crease as a goal is scored, and whether there's judgment involved in whether said incidental contact in the crease impaired a goalie's ability to make a save or if the contact alone within the confines of the crease means an automatic no-goal.

Otherwise, we will continue to get confusion and serial inconsistency in making what is already one of the game's toughest judgment calls.

Additionally, the National Hockey League apparently still disagrees with me over how to coach officials to position themselves for plays around the net. I will argue until my last breath that we NEED officials to get to the net to get the best possible view of the play. To me, the accordian, banana and telescope techniques need to be fundamental parts of every official's toolbox.

Don't be stationary! Skate to the net, because the money's at the net. We need to break away from the "we'll fix it in replay" mentality, especially when it comes to making goal/no goal calls at the net. What happens when the replay is inconclusive?


Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, he is the director of officiating for the ECAC.
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