Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NHL Offside Video Review - Part 2

This time I write after an inspiring, but confounding when it comes to officiating, 4-3 Blues win over the Blackhawks in game 4 of their first-round series. I say confounding because of several moments in the game which seemed to be judged incorrectly by the men in stripes. I have tremendous respect for the fellows who take on hockey officiating as their mission. So I'm not about to question their integrity or intent to get it right. What this is about is how video replay, and the precise nature of it, fits into what is otherwise a thoroughly imprecise process in regulating a hockey game.

I once again watched a video review of an offside call that could have become a part of turning a win into a loss for the Blues. Thankfully, if you're a Blues fan, it did not. And I once again came away wondering, "Does the coach's challenge and video review on offside really belong in this sport?" 

Point 1 (Free flow)- Part of hockey's thrilling nature comes from the constant action. Entertainment and enjoyment builds to frequent crescendos as one absorbs the continuous, swift, intense, and mostly-graceful movement of everyone on the ice. The free-flowing nature of it is inherent to the pleasure gained. The hitting...the speed...the skating skill...the athletic ability...all combine to form a magical combination of sports-viewing pleasure.

Point 2 (Game Clock)- Throughout a game, scores of happenings occur that are imprecise and somewhat random. For example- The time at which a ref raises his arm and whistles a penalty can vary depending on the decision process of that human in stripes. After multiple instances, this could add or subtract a few seconds to the period and game. The reaction time of the game clock operator in pushing the button could do the same. The clock might malfunction (We've seen that before). How long did it take for the sound to travel from the whistle to the clock operator's ears? Some end-of-period, or end-of-game, scoring plays theoretically shouldn't happen at all if these things happened as precisely as a video replay of offside. None are precise to tenths, or hundredths, of a second like frame-by-frame replay. So randomness and "close is good enough" rules throughout the game, except for the coach's challenge?

Point 3 (Decisions)- Whether to call a penalty, or not, and on whom such as with the very strange Corey Crawford/Robbi Fabbri confrontation, obviously effects who wins or loses. There are instances of offside being called, and play stopped incorrectly, but not challenged. How many times does that happen in which a goal might have been scored were play allowed to continue? In some cases video will show that officials have made a bad call, or made no call; as in Andrew Shaw being allowed to flip off the officials and shout slurs in last night's game without further penalty. (See video above) These officiating calls/non-calls aren't subject to review, or being overruled by a league official.

Considering all of the above, to inject the coach's challenge, and video replay of offside, I believe is counter-productive to the overall product. Does frame-by-frame analysis of a player's skate position seem logical when you have so many other random and unchallenged occurrences which might also decide a game's final score?

In summary, part of the charm of hockey is that you have human beings flying around the ice surface crashing into one another trying to gain a territorial advantage. You also have humans officiating who are doing their best to make sense of it all and keep it a fair fight. But they can't, and won't, always be able to do that. I believe we should be happy with the appeal, and somewhat homespun nature, the sport has always had...humans and all. There should be no prolonged stoppages devoid of entertainment which often frustrate fans when a decision is rendered anyway. The league cannot guarantee a totally justified final score no matter how many coach's challenges and video replays at a critical time of the game are allowed. Last night's Blues/Blackhawks game is exhibit one. The NHL should allow the players to keep skating and the humans to keep officiating.

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