Gary Bettman made my weekend

January 29, 2018

It's easy to pile on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but when he says something as preposterous as he did over the weekend, I have to point it out.  

Bettman was speaking to the media during the All-Star weekend in Tampa Bay when the topic of NHL coach's challenges came up. He basically said it was time for on-ice officials to use a little more common sense during the reviews.

"We need to give a refresher to the officials" Bettman said. "Take a good look, a quick look, but don't search it to death."

I'm so glad I was not present at the news conference because I would have burst out laughing. I keep reading the quote and we even played the audio on our show, and I absolutely can't believe he said that.

"Don't search it to death". You have to be kidding me with that remark. That's exactly what the NHL coach's challenges are all about. The league, for some reason, felt they needed to search possible incidents of goaltender interference or a possible offside on a goal to death.

Let's take the offside challenge for example. By the way, can you believe there was an offside challenge in the All Star game? For real? I can only hope that Barry Trotz hates this rule and decided to use a challenge in the All-Star Game as a form of protest.

"Don't search it to death". I just can't get that out of my head. Let's think about what happens during an offside challenge. Officials get together to look at a tiny tablet and stop the game for a few minutes while they look at a replay. The league that says "don't search it to death" decided the reviews would be better if they placed TV cameras along the blue lines.  

We now have moments where the game comes to a halt and officials peer into the tablet to see a replay from a camera in place for one purpose and one purpose alone and sometimes they need a reverse angle of the blue line replay. The replay is stopped so we can have a freeze frame look. Sometimes they have to zoom in on the skate in an attempt to get conclusive evidence. After all of that, the determination is made that a player had his back skate up in the air, perhaps an inch or two off the ice and the goal should be taken off the board. "Don't search it to death". Riiiight.

But far be it for any fan of the NHL to point out the possibility the league might have made a bad decision or could have a flaw in its sport. Of all of the major pro sports in North America, the NHL is, by far, the most stubborn, arrogant and tone deaf. While some leagues will take criticism and/or suggestions and, at the very least, seriously discuss it or even make a rule change, the NHL goes in the other direction. They close ranks and tell you how you basically don't know anything. It is one of the more infuriating traits of the NHL, and it has been there as long as I have been a fan of the sport, meaning it predates Bettman's tenure. 

I don't get as upset about the goalie interference challenges as the offside mess, but the same problem holds true for both. We are getting down to the nitty gritty when it comes to replays and that is a problem in other leagues too. Look at the NFL and the questions about what a catch is. That whole review process screams overthinking reviews and searching it to death.

It will never happen, but Bettman needs to put the challenge rules back into the box and never let it out again.