Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why "inconclusive" video replays don't exist

No Leaf-related content here, but just a quick note on a subject that comes up fairly often in NHL circles. A lot of fans seem to misunderstand an important part of the NHL's video review process.

Last night, Sidney Crosby scored a controversial overtime goal against the Sabres. His stick appeared to make contact with the puck very close to the crossbar level -- it was hard to tell, even in super slo-mo. As per league policy, the call went against the Sabres.

As always happens when a replay is inconclusive, many fans have assumed that the call made by the on-ice officials stands. In this case, a goal.

Let's clear this up once and for all: That's an NFL rule. There is no such "inconclusive" rule in the NHL.

The NHL rulebook (pdf link) makes no reference to the call on the ice being the tie-breaker on an inconclusive replay. In fact, it makes no mention of inconclusive replays at all.

My reading of the rules is that the NHL doesn't accept the concept of an inconclusive review. Put another way, the video goal judge has to make a call one way or the other. In some cases (a puck crossing the goal line), an inconclusive replay would mean the call was no goal.

But the replay official can't get off the hook by passing the buck back to the on-ice crew. Once he's involved, the on-ice call becomes meaningless.

Have I got this wrong? This misconception comes up so often (even from broadcasters) that I'm wondering if the league has ever addressed it. I can't find any reference to the inconclusive calls in the league's rulebook or anywhere else, but if the NHL has ever clarified this and somebody has a link, please post it in the comments.

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