Tim Wharnsby·Analysis

NHL makes right call taking goalie interference out of refs' hands

NHL general managers have decided to give the final decision on goalie interference video reviews to the league's hockey operations department, commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday.

NHLPA approves change which will shift decision-making to league's hockey operations

The NHL on Wednesday signed off on giving final say on goalie interference calls to its hockey operations department, pending approval from the players' association and board of governors. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Moving the responsibility of the coach's challenge for goaltender interference out of the hands of the on-ice officials and into the capable minds of Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy, Kris King, Kay Whitmore and Rod Pasma in the NHL hockey operations situation room in Toronto was a proper first step.

As a result of three days of debate in Boca Raton, Fla., the NHL general managers recommended as much on Wednesday.

The GMs, coaches and players want consistency on goalie interference reviews, and the proposed alteration to Rule 78.7 (ii) received swift approval from the NHL Players Association and its competition committee. It still requires approval from the league's board of governors.

Previously, the on-ice official who made the call would make the final decision on coach's challenges with the help of a rinkside tablet device and the situation room. Consistency was not evident in recent weeks with goalie interference calls with the referees. It was understandable because each referee has their own rule interpretations and proverbial hangups.

"What I'm hearing from the managers is they want consistency," Campbell said. "It's not who is doing it, it's that we've got five guys [in the situation room] that participate in it, two who do 90 per cent of [the reviews] and in the playoffs, we've got one individual who does them all."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman also revealed that one of six retired referees — Paul Devorski, Don Koharski, Bill McCreary, Mick McGeough, Rob Shick and Don Van Massenhoven — who now make their living as official supervisors will take a seat on a nightly basis in the situation room.

"The general managers overwhelmingly voted to adopt this change to bring an added level of consistency to goaltender interference rulings and add the input of experienced former on-ice officials to the review process," Bettman said. "While, since the adoption of the coach's challenge, there have been relatively few controversial calls on goaltender interference — perhaps half a dozen of approximately 170 challenges this season — the objective is to be as close to perfect as possible. However, goaltender interference ultimately is a judgment call."

Vintage Bettman

That was vintage Bettman, a usual attempt to downplay what has become a hot-button topic. Even a casual fan can recall at least six goalie interference controversies in the last two months.

Jan. 22 — Toronto's Auston Matthews had a goal called back in a goal interference review at home against the Colorado Avalanche.

Jan. 24 — The Maple Leafs didn't like a third-period goal from Chicago Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz was allowed to stand. 

Jan. 25 — The Edmonton Oilers had an overtime goal from Ryan Strome wiped out after captain Connor McDavid clipped Calgary Flames goalie David Rittich.

Feb. 1 — The St. Louis Blues were upset a goal-mouth scramble goal from Boston Bruins centre David Krejci was allowed to stand in the first period.

Feb. 1 — Erik Haula's go-ahead goal was allowed to stand after his Vegas Golden Knights teammate James Neal hit Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck in the mask with his stick.

Mar. 10 —  Defenceman Brian Dumoulin and the Pittsburgh Penguins felt they were ripped off when Dumoulin's goal was disallowed late in the second period in a game against Toronto.

Hip Check: Vigneault's challenges help The King get the win

6 years ago
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Habs get burned by two goalie interference calls

There have been numerous complaints from coaches and players, saying they don't know what the standard for goaltender interference is anymore. The NHL could help its cause with another educational video sent out to teams prior to the playoffs to clarify.

But if this new change doesn't work, the NHL also may want to consider a two-minute penalty for the team with unsuccessful challenges as is the case with video review challenges for offsides.

Salary cap to increase

There was good news for pending free agents this season as well as for those teams who have players seeking raises. Bettman predicted next year's salary cap will rise to between $78 million US and $82 million from the current $75 million.

The salary cap has not seen an increase of more than $2.4 million the previous four seasons.

2014-15 — $69 million
2015-16 — $71.4 million
2016-17 — $73 million
2017-18 — $75 million 


Tim has covered the hockey landscape and other sports in Canada for three decades for CBC Sports, the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun. He has been to three Winter Olympics, 11 Stanley Cups, a world championship as well as 17 world junior championships, 13 Memorial Cups and 13 University Cups. The native of Waterloo, Ont., always has his eye out for an underdog story.