There is a sense of a new beginning in the National Hockey League after all 31 general managers met in Boca Raton, Florida this week to discuss the hot topic of the hour. It was revealed this week that GMs recommended that Hockey Ops (Situation Room in Toronto) takes over final decision for goalie interference challenges.
Once the NHL’s board of governors approves the change, the plan is to implement it before the end of the 2017-18 regular season. As it stands now, the on-ice referee who made the original call has the final responsibility after consulting with the NHL’s hockey operations department.
On Friday, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock claimed he was pleased with the direction the goalie interference saga was heading.
“I think this is a good way to handle it,” Babcock said. “(Decisions) will go a lot faster and out of this, over time, there will be more clarification (on what is and is not goaltender interference).
“I really like the direction the league has gone and I like the fact they didn’t get in a big rush and panic on it. I think it sets up really good. We all have time prior to the playoffs to get used to whatever we’re doing.”
However, he might not change his mind of the process, as he looked completely confused on Saturday night during the game against his former team, the Detroit Red Wings. In the third period, the Wings believed that they had scored at the 5:00 mark when Frans Nielsen put the puck past Frederik Andersen, but the official immediately waved it off. After a quick chat between on-ice officials, they kept the call as first announced: No goal.
The Wings decided to challenge the call. And then, it a shocking twist of event, the referees decided that no goalie interference occurred and therefore there is a goal. The look on Babcock's face was priceless as the coach wondered what was happening as the Wings took the lead.
Babcock has been critical of goaltender interference calls and non-calls, and after a Maple Leafs game in Buffalo on March 5, demanded that the NHL “get it fixed” before the playoffs.
He will probably demand the same thing after tonight's game since it seemed clear to him the goal wasn't one. At least, the Leafs ended up tying things up a few minutes later... They also ended up with the 4-3 victory, so that might calm Babcock down...