Coach's challenge in NHL? Be careful what you wish for | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaCoach's challenge in NHL? Be careful what you wish for

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 | 10:35 AM

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Monday's game between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators had a bad call that could have merited a challenge. (Joe Mahoney/Getty Images) Monday's game between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators had a bad call that could have merited a challenge. (Joe Mahoney/Getty Images)

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From time to time, there will be muffed calls by a referee or lineman in the NHL. But is a coach's challenge the way to go?

Terry Gregson made a simple suggestion at a NHL general managers meeting last year.

The NHL senior vice-president and director of officiating urged each GM to take in at least one period rinkside. That way, they would gain full appreciation for the difficult task that confronts referees and linesmen on a nightly basis.

There is, after all, quite a difference between the speed of the game at ice level and how it appears up in the press box or on television.

Like the undetected offside call in the Colorado Avalanche-Nashville Predators game on Monday that resulted in a goal from Colorado's Matt Duchene, human error from officials will crop up from time to time. Head coaches make questionable decisions. Players make mistakes. Referees or linesmen are not immune to blunders.

A big part of NHL officiating depends on positioning. Referees and linesmen need to have the proper angles or sightlines to make calls. But sometimes those angles become obscured. Sometimes, officials simply suffer brain cramps and miss obvious calls or make the wrong judgment.

So every once in a while, when a muffed call like on the Duchene goal happens or the questionable goalie-interference decision on Ottawa Senators rookie Jakob Silfverberg in Montreal on Super Bowl Sunday, there will be an outcry for a coach's challenge. It's sure to be discussed again at the next GMs' meeting in Toronto next month.

"Fans, general managers, assistant coaches all watch the game in a slow-motion HD [high definition] world," said a recently retired referee. "That's not the same advantage or benefit the on-ice officials have. But ninety-nine per cent of the time, the right call is made.

"There are so many things to consider if replays are going to be allowed to determine various calls in a game, other than goals. I think the NFL handles video replay well.

"But I'm not that high on using it in hockey because it's a different game. There aren't the stoppages as in football or even baseball."

In other words, be careful what you wish for. Do you want the game to be bogged down with repeated delays? The NHL game has tremendous flow now, even with video reviews for goals that require a look.

If the league looks at employment of a coach's challenge, there would be so many dynamics to consider.

How many challenges would a coach have in a game? Would a challenge be limited to certain types of plays? Would a failed challenge result in a penalty? Would a challenge be allowed in the closing minutes of a game? If so, coaches may use a challenge as a delay tactic to rest up his star players.

There is no harm with a trial and error period in the preseason in order to tinker with all these components. There is no harm in trying to get it right. But I'm not sure the NHL is ready for such an undertaking as a coach's challenge.

In the meantime, if another bad call does pop up, I just hope the offended team handles it with the same class that head coach Barry Trotz and the Predators dealt with the missed offside call earlier this week.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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