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Line Dancing, 2022 Edition

June 13, 2022, 8:21 AM ET [0 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
As a young official, whenever I was stumped about a Rule interpretation, my mentor and supervisor John McCauley would frame it this way: Why was this rule created? When it comes to Rule changes or procedural changes, it's a two-way straight. Too often we only ask "Why should we change it?" without asking "Why should we NOT change it?". In other words, look at all the pros and cons including the potential unintended consequences.

When the NHL instituted replay for offside goals, the intention was to prevent a latter-day version of the infamous 1980 Stanley Cup playoff goal by Duane Sutter on a play that entered the offensive zone offside by at least three feet but which was missed by linesman Leon Stickle.

Everyone agreed that this was a good idea. When the coach's challenge became involved and more and more plays that may/may not have been barely offside -- was the puck on the edge of the line or just over it? Was a skate hovering over or touch up at the blueline just in time? Was there sufficient puck control or did the attacker bring it in barely offside?

Lengthy replay delays. Debates on whether the linesman was in perfect position to make the cal. All par for the course nowadays, and the stakes get raised in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as we've seen from some of the recent controversies.

I officiated 1,010 games in the NHL as a referee. A couple times along the way, I subbed as a linesman. Guess what: I'm not an expert on line work, or at least I know that I don't know line work like these guys do. Any other current or retired ref who is being honest would tell you the same thing.

There has been talk about reviewing line work and what is and isn't challengeable moving forward. I wish I could say I have a lot of confidence in the NHL handling such considerations for the better rather than opening even more cans of worms. I do not.

To me, I think any such changes need to start with a committee of alumni and active linesman studying and discussing the matter. People such as Brian Murphy, Shane Heyer, and Brad Lazarowich, who are not far removed from their active careers. People like U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Collins and Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Scapinello. Also highly experienced folks like Greg Devorski and Brad Kovachik.

Why not have linesmen with thousands of games of experience help steer the next steps? Having some relevant opinions would be a commission to get the "right call". Rather than five GMs, two owners, and a few coaches would be a waste of time as would using the current Hockey Operations Department to chime in. History shows a tendency to wind up gumming up the works more than solving problems.

I would suggest holding the linesmen committee meeting in Nashville. I've heard line dancing is big there.


A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, 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.
Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart
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