October 03, 2010
There were dozens of panels at Saturday's 2010 Capitals Convention in Washington, D.C., but perhaps none jammed more vital, interesting information into its 45 minutes than the "Rules, Regulations and Penalties" forum featuring Mike Murphy(notes).
Murphy, the NHL's vice president of hockey operations, spoke about new additions to the NHL rulebook and reemphasized rules on situations like contact before an icing.
He also offered a detailed, tantalizing review of the rules tested at the NHL's Research and Development Camp, from the variations on overtime formats to the off-ice referee sitting in a lifeguard's chair. Murphy is also the big cheese in the NHL's War Room for video replay reviews.
(As informative as Murphy was, we have to admit our favorite moment was the Washington Capitals fan who asked him to fire referee Paul Devorski for allegedly blowing a few calls in a recent Caps preseason game.)
After the forum, we sat down with Murphy for a lengthy interview that covered a lot of territory: Injuries on icing plays; 3-on-3 overtime vs. the shootout; throat slashes; the "verification line" that would act a guideline for video reviews of controversial goals; the state of the War Room in 2010; putting chips inside the puck; TV producers withholding replays from the NHL; the "intent to blow" rule; and how it felt to have Vancouver Canucks fans accuse him of bias last postseason.
Q. From the Shanahan rules workshop, which rules changes got you the most excited or made you believe they have a chance for implementation?
MURPHY: I think the hybrid icing has some real valid points. The most important is that it's the safest rule that we can implement without changing a whole lot of things. I don't think our game needs a lot of change right now. I think it's really in a healthy state. But I think that would be the one that, I think, has the most traction.
I like the 3-on-3 in overtime. Players like playing. I think you're going to have more games end in a hockey situation instead of in the shootout. It's winning or losing a game playing hockey as opposed to a shootout, which is a skills set.
But the shootout is hugely popular, so I would be hugely unpopular to say that.
For the shootout: Being that it is a gimmick, being that it's there for entertainment, does that give the NHL carte blanche to try and push it more in that direction rules wise? Like using the same players over and over, or taking off the helmets?
I liked the original statements that came out of the shootout. The competition committee said that they wanted a 3-man shootout and for the whole team to participate. That it's a team sport and not a one-man sport. I liked that. Once you get by your first four or five guys and I do [the same], then it's pretty even. It's not a one-man sport.
On icing, you said something on the panel that I haven't heard expressed much before: That, statistically, you get more goals on a hustle play during a potential icing than you do significant injuries.
Way more. It's not even close. It's 100-to-1.
Someone might look at that argument and say there's insensitivity to serious injuries there.
It's not insensitivity. It's a collision sport, played within the confines of an arena, played on a slippery surface with razor blades on your feet, with 200-pound guys skating at 30 MPH at each other -- you're going to have injuries.
I don't mean to be insensitive to it. There are going to be injuries. Guys travel fast, guys make desperate plays. They run into boards, they run into posts, they run into other players. So you're going to have injuries.
I think if we can continue to enforce the rule we have in place and reemphasized, where if you touch a guy [going for an icing] you get a penalty, and if referees are emphatic about calling it, that will go away.
You guys are big on reemphasizing rules, like the water bottle squirting and throat slashing bits in the recent rules video. On the throat slash thing, we've already had one suspension and one instance where Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) had to be defended as having motioned "zip it" instead of a slash. Is this yet another judgment call for officials?
A player's gestures speak for themselves. There's no judgment involved. By educating players that you can't behave that way, and that organizations can't encourage that behavior, people won't do it. You can point at a guy; you can say 'I'm gonna give it to you' (smacks hand three times), but you can't give a throat slash.
Moving over to the War Room and the TV side of things: I thought the Verification Line idea was an interesting one, since a "guideline" on the ice might help clear up muddled replays. Why don't we have that now?
One of the things is that we don't want to put too many lines on the ice surface. It confuses fans. Especially fans that are marginal fans. I think that's the reason. I do think it had some traction, with the limits you have when players are in the way of the video camera from above and you can't see if the puck crossed the line.
Is there any way to insert it digitally rather than drawing a thin line on the ice?
I don't know. I don't think so. We would like to do it thin, though, so it can only be seen from above.
What are your thoughts about putting a computer chip inside the puck to verify if it crossed the line?
We haven't found one that works yet. Like the temperature [issues], and if there needs to be a magnetic stripping underneath the puck. We haven't found a way to put it in the puck properly. It affects the puck itself: You need it frozen to a certain temperature. I know with the FOX [glow] puck years ago, they were never happy with the finished product with the puck.
We are in the process of looking more into this, doing research on it. But none of them are foolproof. As soon as you put it in an 18-degree Fahrenheit ice surface, and you've got skates and sticks and gloves going over that line, we haven't found something that's foolproof.
Do you feel as though, in 2010, you have enough camera coverage around the net to be successful in the War Room?
You always want more angles, more high-definition. But we get very good views from the overhead, we get referees at the net now and seeing the play, getting positive affirmation from referees. You always want more, but you're never going to be perfect.
Did the situation with the producer from Pittsburgh last season, who held back a replay that would have confirmed a Philadelphia Flyers goal and was suspended for it, shake the foundations of the NHL's replay system?
We feel we have experienced it before, and we always worry about it.
It's a concern. You hope you have both feeds, and most nights we have both feeds in our video replay room. But it always will be a concern that someone can pull a replay on you.
Another question we
always debate on the blog: What are your thoughts about the "intent to blow"
rule for referees, in which a play ends in his mind before you hear a whistle?
Should there be a "play to the whistle" thing in the NHL?
What if the referee has the whistle knocked out of his hands, and he needs to kill the play?
There are some grey areas with it, there are some difficult areas to explain. But that's the way it's in the rulebook. We don't experience a lot of problems with it.
But from a War Room perspective, doesn't it become a problem?
No. I just have to ask [the referee], "When did you kill the play?" It's his call on the ice.
A personal question: How did it feel being labeled 'a Los Angeles Kings sleeper agent' by some in Vancouver after a controversial call in last year's playoffs?
That comes with the territory. You never want to be involved in the game. You want to make the calls and get out. The game's about the players. It's not about some official or outside agency who makes a call.
It was an unfortunate situation. We made a ruling. We stick by the ruling. We know we made the right ruling. But fans are passionate that time of the year, they didn't like the ruling, and they took the low road.
Last question: Were
it up to you, would you drop the instigator?