By MIKE HERNDON
The words “not reviewable” should not exist in any professional sports league that has instant replay.
You have the technology. Use it. Get it right.
The NFL, to its credit, has eliminated at least one more instance of the phrase in its game, making pass interference calls and no-calls reviewable after an inexplicable no-call cost the New Orleans Saints the NFC championship game against the L.A. Rams.
While the NFL’s new rule is a one-year trial run in 2019, we have to hope the sense with which it took action in this case will carry over and lead to full-time adoption.
Now the NHL has its own officiating controversy to deal with. Erik Karlsson scored to give San Jose a 5-4 overtime win over St. Louis and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals series after what seemed an obvious hand pass by teammate Timo Meier.
NHL rule 79: “A player shall be permitted to stop or ‘bat’ a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice official, he has directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to gain an advantage, and subsequently possession and control of the puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or reflected off any player or official.”
In this case, Meier’s hand pass went directly to teammate Gustav Nyquist, who flipped it to Karlsson. And it not only allowed the Sharks an advantage, it gave them the game.
Four referees on the ice apparently did not see Meier slap the puck toward Nyquist, despite the fact that it happened right in front of the Blues’ net. And because the play was deemed not reviewable, the goal stood.
The official statement from the NHL (via ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski): “Plays of this nature are not reviewable. A hand pass that goes into the net can be reviewed, but a hand pass between teammates cannot be reviewed.”
Which is, of course, a fat pile of arbitrarily generated garbage. You are physically able to review anything you want unless you specifically make it against the rules to review. If you have instant replay, and you can’t use it to overturn an obvious and egregious bad call — particularly one that decides the outcome of a game — then you, as a league, aren’t doing your job. If your rules are written in such a way that allows that to happen, you have written terrible rules.
Your job is to ensure a level playing field, a fair game. You have failed.
At the very, rock-bottom least, all scoring plays should be reviewable. The fact that they aren’t already would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.
Oh, but opening replay would make the games last too long, you say. So does every other stoppage of play, but we deem them important, apparently, while this — this obviously missed call that cost a team a playoff game — isn’t.
Yes, the NHL and every other professional sports league needs to create a welcoming, fun atmosphere for its fans, with an on-ice product that’s going to keep them coming back to the arena. But nothing will keep them from coming back faster than games they don’t believe are fair. Particularly playoff games.
You have it in your power to fix this, NHL. You have the technology. Make it so. Fix your rules and make such plays reviewable.
If you don’t, it just tells us that you don’t give a damn about fair play. And then we, in turn, won’t give a damn about you.