The NHL Replay System Is Broken, But Fixable


I’ve had something on my mind for quite some time, and it’s about the NHL replay system. I have been passionate about this topic before, and this is the perfect subject to talk about for Tuesday’s Tirade. It seems like we are seeing more and more instances where a lack of replay hurts a team or where a replay doesn’t even give us a conclusive answer.

The replay system set in place right now is flawed, but so easily fixable. It angers me because it has cost teams wins before, and it will eventually cost someone a playoff series win or even a Stanley Cup. The good thing is with the technology available today the league shouldn’t have a hard time implementing a new system.

So let’s go through a few problems there are currently with how things are set up.

1. Not all plays are reviewable

This is the biggest problem I have with the NHL, and it’s the easiest thing to change. All it takes is a rule change, and I can’t see why the Board of Governors wouldn’t approve something like that. Things that aren’t reviewable include puck over the glass, goaltender interference, shootout goals (which only apply in the regular season of course), high sticks, and a bunch of other small things.

We have seen time and time again referees get a call wrong, but since it is not reviewable one team gets a goal/powerplay/opportunity taken away. Ottawa fans are well aware of this happening, and some of the wounds may still be a bit fresh. I’m sure you’re aware what happened in Game 6, as it looked like Montreal high sticked the puck moments before they scored, and also perhaps on the actual Brendan Gallagher goal itself. Here’s the first one they may have missed:

Not only that, Ottawa also had a goal taken away, as Jean-Gabriel Pageau should have scored on a loose puck but the referee blew the whistle too early. With the help of replay, there’s a chance the Senators could have actually been up 1-0 in that game. Now perhaps neither of those plays would have gotten overturned, but I would like to have the option for the officials to review the play, because things like that shouldn’t happen in the playoffs.

And I’m aware referees get calls wrong, as I am one myself. But that’s what replay is for, just in case they do indeed miss something that should have been called or not called. It’s not hard to make plays like high sticks, early whistle, goalie interference, hand passes, etc. reviewable because all it takes is a few more lines in the rule book.

I don’t understand why they can’t let coaches challenge a few plays during the game, just like the NFL and MLB do. I don’t care what people say, it isn’t going to slow down the game. I’d rather get the right call anyway.

2. Some rules make no sense

The NHL has some very dumb rules, and one of them is the puck over the glass rule. How many times has that cost a team late in the game? I don’t want to see a team lose because of a puck flipped slightly too high. Players almost never do that on purpose, so stop penalizing them for it.

We saw the Buffalo Sabres get screwed over in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 when Brett Hull wasn’t called for a crease violation when his foot was clearly in the crease. They messed up that call, but the rule shouldn’t have been there in the first place and thank God it isn’t anymore.

May 17, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) crashes into Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (31) during the second period in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Another rule I have a problem with is goaltender interference. It is the most inconsistently called penalty ever, and I honestly have no idea what the criteria is for a penalty. Nowadays you see goalies flopping any time they get contacted, but also many defensemen push their opponents into their own goalies and draw a penalty. If the referee doesn’t see entire play, then don’t call it.

Sometimes I am fine with simply calling off a goal when the goaltender is interfered with and there being no penalty, but also many times it isn’t even the attacking players fault. I just want some consistency with the penalty, because a lot of the time it looks like teams are getting goals unjustly taken away. It doesn’t help that goaltender interference penalties aren’t reviewable, which goes back to my first point.

3. The NHL is sometimes unwilling to change

Even the MLB which is notoriously known for living in the past and reminiscing about its traditional ways has surpassed the NHL in some respects to replay. In 2014 they made just about every play in the game reviewable, besides of course balls and strikes. But if there’s a close home run, a close play at 2nd base, a dropped ball that was actually caught, or several other plays you can review it.

Their system of course isn’t perfect, but they are at least trying to improve things. The NHL has the technology. They put chips in the pucks at the All-Star game to track player movements, there is absolutely no way you can tell me they can’t track the puck to see if it goes 100% over the goal line in games. FIFA implemented goal-line technology to see if balls completely cross the line, so hockey has no excuse there.

More from SenShot

The Calgary Flames non-goal against the Anaheim Ducks a few weeks ago created some controversy, but with new replay systems that review should not have even been something to talk about.

I have talked about that idea for years, and I don’t think it would be too hard. Just create a sensor at the goal line, and when the puck crosses it the review room get an alert, showing that it is a goal. That may take a year or two to create, but I’m fine with that. As long as they announce they have a plan, then I’ll be happy.

But as of right now they seem content with what they have, when in reality there are still some clear problems.


The NHL has some serious problems with replay right now. The good thing is it’s so easy to change, and it shouldn’t take long to implement. In my tirade this week, I’m begging the league to do something about this because I’ve had enough of blown calls every week, especially in the playoffs.

Next: Fun With Numbers: Ottawa Senators Bargains And Rip-Offs