November 19, 2009
Mike Murphy(notes), the NHL's Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, appeared on the NHL Live! radio program today to explain referee how the League let stand Dennis LaRue's epically awful call that robbed the Detroit Red Wings of a goal last night.
"In this particular case what happened is we (in the League's video replay room in Toronto) see the puck in the net and call the video goal judge and say, 'Blow the horn and get the referee over here. We see a puck in the net that hasn't been ruled a goal,' " Murphy said. "At that point the referee comes over and we have a discussion. They came to us and said, 'My intent to blow the whistle was there, I have this play dead before the puck crosses the goal line,' No more needs to be said. Once we hear that, video review is out of the process. It's a call made on the ice and it's a non-reviewable call. It's a whistle blown by the referee and it was blown or the intent to blow it was before the puck crossed the goal line."
Murphy's defending the indefensible here, which is why he gently placed LaRue under the bus today when he later said, "In all cases we want to get the right call. In this case it appears we didn't."
But the more the NHL explains it, the less this is LaRue's fiasco; the League's own ineffective fail-safes against these sorts of blown calls are the reason it looks like a second-rate operation in this debacle.
It's the NHL's fault for removing human beings from in back of the net in favor of technology. Had there been a goal judge in back of the Dallas goal, that red light is flashing before LaRue intends to blow anything. But the NHL felt it didn't need an old man in a blazer to do what cameras could do "better," and the owners felt those extra dollars in lower-bowl tickets were worth ending the decades-old tradition.
But it's also the NHL's fault for not trusting its technology more than human beings -- in this case, their referees.
The play again:
Why do we have video reviews? Because human error happens, whether it's due to speed or poor positioning or an error in judgment. All three of these things occurred on LaRue's folly, yet the NHL considers "intent to blow" a non-reviewable call. Why? Murphy attempted to explain it today on the radio, via Rosen:
"In some cases when you have video review people expect perfection and that's never the case. There are times when we don't want video review to intercede. We don't want video review refereeing a game."
Murphy later did one of those "if we review this, when what about that!" arguments, wondering if video reviews for hooking or slashing are next, which is a preposterous straw-man argument. No one wants that; this mess is different.
This review is really no different than one that determines if a puck crossed the line on a bang-bang play. It doesn't matter that Dennis LaRue intended the play to be whistled dead because the puck was already over the goal-line when he intended the play to be over.
(Murphy said "the feeling was the save was made and then the puck trickled in"; did LaRue even know it went in? It's something, you know, kind of mandatory for professional referees. There's no scramble in front, no need to protect Dallas Stars goalie Alex Auld(notes) -- even it's a ridiculously quick whistle, there's no way the play "ended" before the puck crossed the line.)
The good news is that the NHL understands this. As Murphy said, this is now three or four times this kind of thing has happened this season, and he wonders if there's going to be a "procedure change" at some point to address it.
Does that mean a chip in the puck to indicate that it crosses the goal line? Maybe one day.
For now, let's just make the logical, palpable change: Allow the War Room in Toronto to overturn obvious blown calls like this; or get rid of the "intent to blow" miscarriages of justice and simply play to the sound of the whistle, rather than the thought of it.
Which is, you know, what they do in pee-wee hockey.