Editorial: Can the NHL Improve Officiating?

Photo from Scouting The Refs Website.

Photo from Scouting The Refs Website.

In any sport, you’re going to run into human error every once in a while. This year seemed to be more than “once in a while” for the NHL Officials. Errors were made from the start of the regular season all the way through to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was game 2 of the NHL’s biggest stage, the Stanley Cup Final, when 2 incidents were called wrong on the ice. Many viewed that it altered the outlook of the series and changed the fortunes of two teams.

With NY leading 4-2 entering the third period, the Kings’ Dwight King skated through Rangers’ Henrik Ludqvist’s crease. The contact in the paint prevented Lundqvist from stopping a weak wrist shot from the point and cut the lead to 4-3 less than 2 minutes into the period.


A visibly upset Lundqvist went straight to referee Dan O’Halloran, who proceeded to explain the unexplainable. Just earlier in the game, Benoit Pouliot was called for the very same infraction. This time, according to  Lundqvist, “He (O’Halloran) said the puck had already passed me. I don’t buy it.” We, like Lundqvist fully agree, we don’t buy it.

Too make matters worse, the officiating crew led by Wes McCauley failed to call a “delay of game” when a Kings defender clearly shot it over the glass. The ref immediately, without consultation, started slamming the glass, indicating it had touched. Replays showed that it was nowhere near the glass and clearly sailed straight into the stands by 10 feet. Dustin Brown would end the game just a minute later.

So it poses the question, can the NHL improve their officiating? If so, how?

Well it wont be an easy task to do. Many of these NHL referees have been around for quite some time. Some even back to the 90’s. The NHL was a totally different game then, less infractions were called because they allowed more. It was all about letting the boys on the ice decide the fate of the game.

Today, the mandate is for more offense and it’s affecting their decision making. Still, there are few areas they can look elsewhere to improve. For instance, the FIFA World Cup. Many people are watching the World Cup and we’ve already seen 2 crucial calls using their new “Goal Line Technology”. There is some sort of sensor in the ball and above the net, so if the ball completely crosses the goal line, the referees watch will light up saying “Goal”.

Last year, the NHL shortened the depth of the net and added clear plastic from the post on for about a foot. This was to help see on controversial calls if the puck totally crossed the goal line or not. Why not try FIFA’s approach with the goal line technology? A ref can still deem a good goal or no goal on the ice if contact is made with the goaltender or if it’s kicked or touched with a high stick.  It could eliminate long reviews and super zoomed in, pixelated images, when trying to decide if a goal has occurred.

France score first World Cup goal to be awarded with the support of GLT

The NHL can also take a note from the NFL and MLB and maybe introduce a coach’s challenge. The MLB just added that this year and it has both paid dividends and caused confusion. But I’m sure its an option.

Recently, the NHL’s Competition Committee met to discuss some rule changes, however many really don’t address the problems of getting the calls right on the ice.

FTHN Magazine understands, anytime humans are involved, errors will occur every now and again. Can the NHL improve their officiating? The answer is yes. But will they? That remains to be seen, and until they address the issues on the ice, either with new technology or better refs, the answer is NO.

Lastly, there is a new website called Scouting the Refs. I urge you to take a look, because it could be something like this that forces the league to stop ignoring a growing problem.

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