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Kingerski: NHL Must Solve Goalie Interference; Rethink Review Rules



Photographer: Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire

There isn’t yet a singular face to the NHL’s goalie interference quandary as Al Riveron became in the NFL’s seemingly-never-ending quest to determine a catch. Unfortunately, the NHL’s goalie interference call has now reached the same level of mystical confusion.

What is goaltender interference?

On Saturday, Brian Dumoulin’s would-be goal “didn’t survive the ground” despite the facts Dumoulin possessed the puck, skated around Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederick Andersen, attempted to avoid contact with Andersen, made contact with the netminder after the initial shot but was blocked into the netminder.

To compound the confusion, not only was the goal disallowed by referee Dean Morton due to goaltender interference, a minor penalty for intentional contact was assessed which negated review. Perhaps even the officials have become so confused by the process, the penalty itself has become muddled.

Rule 69.1 states: “Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease.”

A minor penalty for goaltender interference is, by definition, an unreviewable judgment call. Goaltender interference on a scored goal is reviewable but is still a judgment call. Human beings in a little room miles away study it, looking for evidence.

But evidence of what? To confirm a call? To overturn the call?

It isn’t hard to imagine an official tired of review controversies just took matters into his own hands. By calling an interference penalty, he settled the case quickly.

So, What is Goalie Interference?

It is time to simplify the interpretation of goaltender interference: Did the player initiate contact with the goalie and did the contact change the result of the play?

Yes, reviews on the matter will remain judgment calls but at least the parameters will be clear. And simple.

Dumoulin did eventually make contact with Anderson, but it didn’t seem to impair the goaltender’s ability to make the save. There was not a resulting action from the contact. It was light contact after the shot, and a strong case could be made the opposing defender, Ron Hainsey, directed Dumoulin into the goalie.

By definition (2) above, It would seem sensational to call Dumoulin’s contact intentional or deliberate.

As Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry told the CBC, “It can go any way on any night.”

Review Change

Stricken from the record was the prettiest goal Dumoulin will ever score.

Goaltender interference isn’t like offside in which the answer is clear. Goaltender interference has the potential not just for ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but for ‘maybe,’ too.

Perhaps we have become too reliant on technology to merely think for ourselves with common sense. As we fall into the trap of seeking absolute truth from technology and not ourselves, we get further from truth. Henry David Thoreau would chuckle. In a way, I think Ayn Rand would, as well. (I’ve spent far too much time with my book collection this winter).

In a call which straddles the border of both sides, watching it in super-slow motion, high definition, ultra-zoom, over and over, takes away context.

In the latest chapter of goaltender interference, a human being with an obstructed view made a judgment call which cost the Penguins an important goal.

The play should be reviewable because a goal was scored. The review should be watched at full speed in the context of the play and the game, because it was a judgment call, and not watched a granular level to separate it from the game. And, the guidelines should be simplified.

That doesn’t seem so hard. So, why is it?