Bettman — NHL to consider expanded video review


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BOSTON — Commissioner Gary Bettman considers the NHL’s current video review system “a blessing and a curse.” There are times when it’s a vital mechanism for getting calls on the ice correct. But in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, there have been a dozen instances of controversial plays that couldn’t be remedied with replay because they fell outside of their scope.

Before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Bettman said the NHL will consider expanding video review when the league’s competition committee and general managers meet next month.

“Clearly, what we already do still may not be enough,” Bettman said. “If we are to extend video replay — and we will be looking at that possibility — we must find the right balance when it comes to how much more to use and when to use it without affecting the flow, pace and excitement of our game. Perhaps most important, we’ve got to have a system that enables us to be consistent. This is the challenge, and it’s a challenge we are focused on and we will meet.”

Currently, the NHL uses video review to determine the validity of goals scored and to assess goalie interference calls. The league also uses it to determine potential offside plays when a goal is scored. These reviews are initiated by on-ice officials, by the “war room” in Toronto or through coach’s challenges during the game.

Bettman said the potential expansion of video reviews is a complicated issue. He said the league is “very” concerned with slowing down the pace of the game. But the bigger concern, he said, is what the parameters of expanded video reviews look like.

“We want to get it right, but what is the ‘it’? How far do you go back? What actually affects the actual result?” he said.

Take that missed hand pass that handed Game 3 of the Western Conference finals to the San Jose Sharks in overtime.

“What I thought [at the time] was that it would be good if I kept my head from exploding,” Bettman said. “I was unhappy. We all were.”

But he argued that if you review a missed hand pass, where is the cutoff for when you can review a play?

“What if the hand pass happened a minute earlier? Or it cleared the zone? You can roll it back endlessness,” he said. “If we decide to extend replay, we have to define it in a way where we don’t ruin the game and get it right.”

Yet while playoff controversies such as the missed hand pass, a missed puck off the netting in the Boston Bruins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets series and a phantom major penalty called in Game 7 between the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights seem to argue for expanded replay, there are many players and general managers who argue that video review should be reduced. More specifically, they believe one aspect of it should be that offside plays should no longer be reviewed.

The spirit of the rule was to catch egregious missed calls, such as the offside on Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene in 2013 that inspired the rule change. But over time, it has been used for minutia, with officials counting video pixels on unclear images to determine if a scoring play was onside.

Bettman, however, doesn’t have an appetite for reduction of the video review system, even though it has been a topic of conversation in previous general managers meetings.

“Whatever your view is of video replay, what we’re doing is working well, and I don’t think you can go backward anymore,” he said. “I think that ship has sailed.”

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it is more likely that there would be a rule change related to offside than the elimination of video reviews for offside plays. “I think if anything, there would be consideration to changing the rule instead. And then it’s probably still a pixel review, but it might be friendlier to the players on the ice,” he said.

But if the NHL competition committee — a group of league officials, executives and current players that is scheduled to meet June 11 in Toronto — determines that they’d like to see offside taken out of the video review system, Daly said Bettman would listen. “Gary always has an open mind about everything,” he said.

Well, not everything. Bettman shut down the idea that all calls made on the ice should be open to video reviews.

“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Let’s review everything.’ The flow of our game would be interrupted if we reviewed everything. It’s not possible,” he said.

Other news from the commissioner’s state of the NHL address:

Former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov to become unrestricted free agent

Voynov will become an unrestricted free agent at the midpoint of next season, per an independent arbitrator’s ruling that Voynov already served half of his yearlong suspension.

But his eligibility is more complicated than that. Since Voynov is on the voluntary retirement list, there are certain mechanisms for his return to the NHL. That includes the ability of the Kings to tender a contract to Voynov, as long as the amount is “reasonable,” according to Daly, which would grant the team additional rights in potentially moving his rights.

In other words, though suspended players can be traded, Voynov can’t as long as he is on the voluntary retirement list. Tendering him an offer would allow that kind of move, per Daly.

No preseason games in China next season

“That doesn’t mean we’re slowing down any kind of Chinese strategy,” Daly said. “The reason for that has to do with the 70th anniversary of the rise of power of the communist party and Mao Zedong and our inability to book appropriate arrangements in arenas and cities because of that celebration at that time of the year.”

The NHL has hosted two preseason games in China in each of the past two years.

Daly said the league will continue to invest in grassroots and school programs to fuel the growth of hockey in China. The deputy commissioner said the expectation would return in the fall of 2020.

No change on Olympics stance

Bettman said the NHL has not changed its stance on sending players to the Olympics. The NHL took an Olympic break from 1998 to 2014 but did not for the 2018 games in Pyeonchang, which angered many players.

Bettman said the IIHF has not communicated a deadline for when it needs to know about NHL player participation. The next Winter Olympics will be held in 2022 in Beijing.

NHL undecided on starting women’s league

The NHL is letting “the dust settle” on the women’s hockey landscape before deciding whether to launch its own women’s league, according to Bettman.

“Whether it’s appropriate or not to get involved or start our own league is not something everyone agrees on,” Bettman said.

More than 200 women’s hockey players announced that they will not be playing in a league next season until a more viable, sustainable league emerges. The NHL has previously said it doesn’t want to interfere with any existing leagues. There is currently one women’s professional league in North America, the NWHL, and Bettman alluded to rumors about another league sprouting up.

The NHL invited women’s hockey players to participate at the 2019 All-Star game, and the NHL helped facilitate the Canada-USA series last year. Bettman said the league will continue to support “one-offs” such as that as it explores whether to get involved in a more meaningful way.

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