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Poor Positioning Leads to Trouble

November 13, 2021, 10:28 AM ET [1 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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You've heard me say this many times over my eight years of blogging at HockeyBuzz: Positioning sells calls. Skate where you need to skate to see what you need to see. The money is at the net.

There's a converse to these principles: Poor positioning leads to trouble.

I urge the retired NHL officials who've been hired this season as national broadcasters and analysts to bring to better light how an official's positioning directly affects the calls that get made. I've banged this drum many times: The NHL needs to stop coaching its officials to go to the corners rather than directly behind or adjacent to the net where they get the best view of the puck. Kerry Fraser has also mentioned this issue. But we need more commentators who have NHL officiating experience to illustrate just have many goal/no goal calls get missed.

It's NOT throwing someone under the bus to use video to point out positional errors and opportunities for improvement. That's what educating the public -- and teaching officials -- is about. In the NHL games I've watched so far this season, I've seen numerous examples of poor positioning that have led to game delays and, worse, to missed calls.

Here's a particularly glaring example. It occurred in the second period of the Arizona vs. Philadelphia game on Nov. 2. First, we'll look at the video of the sequence in question.



OK, so what happened here? The near-side referee (R1) skated to the right corner and then somehow went to the right slot and had his vision obscured momentarily by a player in front of him. The Arizona goalie briefly had the puck covered but, but the time the referee had an unobstructed view, the puck had been dug free and stashed into the net.

The near-side referee, whose primary responsibility it was to rule goal/no goal, pointed to the net to signify a legal goal. He shook his head when Arizona players complained that the puck had been covered and play should have been stopped. However, the far-side referee (R2) and the two linesmen subsequently told the R1 that they had seen the puck covered. The R1 then deferred to his partner officials, and the goal was overturned.

Was the puck covered long enough for a stoppage? Well, that's a judgement call. I think it probably was because the puck was under the netminder's glove and briefly in his control. But play kept going, which is at the discretion of the near-side official.

Question: What's the right call if an R1 loses sight of the puck? Blow the whistle for a stoppage. To take no action IS an action.

Until there's a whistle, the attacking team has every right to continue to try to dig/ jab at the puck. By not blowing play dead, the R1 unwittingly set in action everything else that happened. He passively made the judgment call that the play was still alive. If that's a live puck, the outcome was a goal.

So, what we had here was some very poor positioning by the near-side official and then inaction when he was unable to see the puck by the left post but did not blow the whistle. To underline this: the opposite slot with bodies in your line of vision is NOT where you want to be on the play like this. Neither is the corner.

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A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart
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