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Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Did referee Dennis LaRue make the right call disallowing Brad May’s apparent goal?

You make the call: Did referee Dennis LaRue make the right call disallowing Bray May’s apparent goal?

Well if you are referee Dennis LaRue you would answer that he did not score a goal last night during the Wings/Stars game.  In case you missed the goal/non-goal, here it is:


Now I was watching the game at the gym so I was without sound (which meant I couldn’t hear Ken & Mick declaring it a goal) and I was unable to conclude why the goal was disallowed.  From what I had seen, I assumed the whistle had been blown and that was the reason the goal did not count.  Hockey blogs and forums were aflame discussing this issue and the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that the referee made a bad call.

The explanation given to Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was that the ref’s “intent” was for the whistle to have been blown and therefore the goal was to be disallowed.  Clearly Coach Babcock didn’t agree as he indicated to the Detroit Free Press after the game:

It wasn’t blown dead. That was a goal. I know what the league said, it’s not reviewable, but … the guy never meant to blow the whistle. It was a shot. It was in on the shot. It’s just dumb as I’ve ever seen.  

Now looking to the always fun NHL rule book it has this to say about the subject at hand:

32.2 Disputes – The Referees shall have general supervision of the game and shall have full control of all game officials and players during the game, including stoppages; and in case of any dispute, their decision shall be final.

As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.

Now the reading of this rule is pretty clear and I would imagine that this is what referee LaRue would refer back to if asked about the call.  An important word in this rule to key on, is the word “slightly”  because without further explanation are we to assume it means 1 second or could it mean 4-5 seconds?
Hockey is the fastest game out there and referees are human, so clearly they can make a mistake which is why there is video review to counter any errors.  The video goal judge’s responsibilities include:
39.1 General Duties – The following are the general duties of the Video Goal Judge:

(i) He will review replays of disputed goals when requested to do so by the Referees.

(ii) He will review replays of disputed goals when he observes an incident that was undetected by on-ice officials.

(iii) After viewing the incident he will promptly convey his decision directly to the Referee at the penalty bench. When a play has been referred to the Video Goal Judge, his decision shall be final.

(iv) During the review he may consult with a member of the League’s Hockey Operations or Officiating department staff if latter is in attendance at the game (or via telephone).

Upon further review from the war room in Toronto, this should have been called a goal.  It is clear from the play that Brad May shoots the puck on net, Alex Auld goes down to make the save and the referee losses sight of the puck.  It would be at this point that he would blow the whistle.  Now three seconds elapsed between May shooting the puck and Auld making the “save”.  Even assuming that referee LaRue “intended” to blow the whistle immediately, the puck would have already crossed the line since I don’t imagine he “intended” to blow the whistle before the save was made.
The only thing to override the goal was the “intent” factor.  The question I have for IC readers, is did Referee LaRue make the right call or should the league have overruled him and declared it a goal?
Interestingly, the NHL has a procedure in place anytime video review is used:

39.3 Reports – Following every game, the Video Goal Judge must call the National Hockey League Toronto office and provide a verbal report of all video reviews conducted during the game.

Video Goal Judge reports are to be faxed or sent electronically to the National Hockey League Toronto office immediately following the game.

I can only imagine what the video goal judge wrote in his report to the league.  Should be interesting to see if this has any impact on the NHL and whether or not the league will modify the rules accordingly.
The NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy added this:
In this particular case what happened is we (in the League’s video replay room in Toronto) see the puck in the net and call the video goal judge and say, ‘Blow the horn and get the referee over here. We see a puck in the net that hasn’t been ruled a goal,’. At that point the referee comes over and we have a discussion. They came to us and said, ‘My intent to blow the whistle was there, I have this play dead before the puck crosses the goal line,’ No more needs to be said. Once we hear that, video review is out of the process. It’s a call made on the ice and it’s a non-reviewable call. It’s a whistle blown by the referee and it was blown or the intent to blow it was before the puck crossed the goal line.
However Murphy also added this:
In all cases we want to get the right call. In this case it is clear we didn’t. In some cases when you have video review people expect perfection and that’s never the case. There are times when we don’t want video review to intercede. We don’t want video review refereeing a game.

Do you agree with the League explanation?  Sound off in the comments!