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The NHL’s general managers held their annual meetings this week, discussing a number of potential improvements and tweaks to the rules in order to make the product they help to oversee more fair and entertaining. It’s not known if the controversial “intent to blow” rule was brought up, which essentially allows the NHL and its referees to conveniently explain missed calls due to intending to blow the whistle.
Hopefully, it was discussed. Just like “I intended to do my homework” didn’t work on my sixth grade math teacher, this should not be allowed to stand.
On Tuesday against Toronto the Sharks were caught in the middle of this absurd rule for a second time this season, with Tommy Wingels involved both times. In the first period with the game tied 1-1, the Sharks forward was able to sneak a deflected puck inside the near post past James Reimer, who plainly never had control of the disc before it crept past the line. It was eventually waved off by referee Dave Jackson.
Here’s the league’s official explanation:
The referee informed the Situation Room that he was in the process of blowing his whistle to stop play while the puck was under James Reimer's body in the crease. According to Rule 78.5, apparent goals shall be disallowed "when the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle." This is not a reviewable play therefore the referee's call on the ice stands - no goal San Jose.
Jackson obviously lost sight of the puck and blew the play dead, but only after Wingels raised his arms in celebration.
That’s hardly the worst part, though. Referees routinely lose sight of the puck, and many times no one can blame them with how quickly the game moves. On Tuesday, Jackson was standing at the side of the net when the puck crossed, and his view was seemingly obscured by Reimer’s pad.
No, the worst part is that the league still had the opportunity to make things right on a play that should have absolutely been deemed a goal. Replays show that Jackson’s whistle came more than a full second after the puck had crossed the line, so any suggestion he was intending to blow it before it crossed is dubious, at best.
Instead, what happened not only brings into question the integrity of the game, but just what the War Room in Toronto is doing in the first place in a situation like that. Why isn’t someone telling Jackson – who got on a headset with Toronto at the official scorer’s table – that the goal should be allowed to stand? Rather than one party (Jackson) simply telling the other (Toronto) what he saw or did, why isn’t Toronto telling Jackson to admit his error and make things right, during what was still a close game?
Yes, referees have a tremendously difficult job. Bad calls are going to happen. But, when one can be avoided or overturned by simply having a discussion about a plainly evident video review that shows the on-ice call was wrong, it’s to the benefit of everyone involved.
Fortunately, the goal had no outcome on the game, as the Sharks cruised past the Maple Leafs, 6-2, after the first period embarrassment. That's unlike Wingels’ previous run-in with the “intent to blow rule” on Nov. 5 against Buffalo, when his overtime marker was missed by the referees and the War Room in Toronto, on a play that was more an indictment of the video review process than the on-ice officiating.
The league might not be so lucky next time, with the playoffs just one month away. The referees will make mistakes then, too, and a good portion of them will probably be understandable. But when potential human error is combined with a lack of common sense, disaster looms.