SHAWINIGAN, Que. — A video review in hockey can be parsed like a Supreme Court decision. Except it doesn't work so logically.
Suffice to say, the right call was made for strange reasons on a goal by the Shawinigan Cataractes' Anton Zlobin that shifted the momentum in the third period of the MasterCard Memorial Cup opener. The Edmonton Oil Kings eventually won 4-3 — as coach Derek Laxdal put it, "Thank God it didn't affect the outcome of the game" — but it was a definite talker.
Edmonton had just opened a two-goal lead when Zlobin took a shot that squeezed through Oil Kings goalie Laurent Brossoit's five-hole and spun across the goal line. Referee Nicolas Dutil, who's from the QMJHL, blew the whistle so quickly that many in the crowd at Centre Bionest were unsure if the puck was in the net. Then Dutil signalled no goal by waving his arms before skating to the press box to talk with the off-ice officials who were conducting the video review.
First a national TV audience on Sportsnet heard Dutil say he blew the whistle after the puck crossed the line. But there were the troublesome fact he'd signalled no goal and a widespread impression that the quick whistle might have saved the Oil Kings. Needless to say, mass confusion ensued when viewers heard the instruction "go with the call on the ice" and Dutil signalled a goal, cutting the Oil Kings' lead at the time to 3-2.
The play was discussed vehemently on Sportsnet after the game by analysts Nick Kypreos and John Garrett, starting around the 1:50 mark.
Suffice to say, across the country, junior hockey fans were flummoxed by the decision. Some might even joke that it was so convoluted that only Nick Kypreos could explain it perfectly. The former pro was right. It's not when Dutil blew his whistle, it's when he intended to. And Garrett concedes there was no point when Laurent Brossoit covered the puck. The only reason this can be classified as a controversial goal — beyond coming up with a Google-friendly headline — is that Dutil indicated no goal on the ice.
From Jamie Tozer:
It was total confusion, with the upstairs guy eventually saying to go with the call on the ice. Dutil then called it a goal, reversing the on-ice call he originally made. Very bizarre. (Station Nation)
The whole human comedy perpetuated itself, more or less. From Jess Rubenstein:
Here is where the confusion in my eyes takes place; the referee believes that the goal was good because the replay booth says it had gone in. The replay official kept saying over and over that it depended on when the referee had blown his whistle.
Neither side answered the others question so the referee ruled goal thinking that the replay official said it was a good goal. However the replay official never once says that but instead he says repeatedly it depended on when the referee blew his whistle.
In this case, and you can say I have a bias as a West Coast person that it should have been the original call of no goal since there was not anything conclusive to overturn the original call. It depended on when the ref blew the whistle but that question was never answered. (The Prospect Park)
The way it was handled didn't wear well in Edmonton. From Bruce McCurdy:
...the whistle seemed to have blown before the puck dribbled across the line; the referee appeared to have waved off the goal before going to video review; and then after a highly miscommunicative "call upstairs" that was carried live on Sportsnet in which the two officials involved seemed to talk right past each other, the booth advised that the call on the ice should stand … which the ref then changed to "good goal." The ineptitude on display to both eye and ear would have been comical, other than the minor matter that it was a turning point of a very important hockey game. I suspect there will be some interesting fallout from this embarrassing incident, although fortunately the outcome of the game was not affected in the final analysis. (Cult of Hockey)
Embarrassing incident? Come now. The way it was handled made it an incident, but the call was correct. Laxdal wasn't put out by the decision, saying he "liked the protocol." Really, it was just was just a soft goal that Brossoit stops 99 times out of 100, compounded by a mental error by Dutil (the waving of the arms) that was eventually put right.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (video: Sportsnet).