Back in January, there was a disallowed goal in the USA vs. Finland gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Championships. That one stemmed from a disputed crease violation that, under the strictest interpretation of IIHF rules (which differ in places from many North American rule books, including the NHL), resulted in the goal being disallowed. Ultimately, Finland won the game, 3-2, and the gold medal.
This weekend, in overtime of the USA vs. Finland gold medal game at the IIHF Women's World Championships, a would-be gold medal winning goal by the Finns resulted in a very lengthy delay. Ultimately, the video goal judge reversed the initial good-goal ruling made on the ice by the referee. USA ultimately won the game, 2-1, and took home the gold medal.
I felt bad for the Americans in January. Now, I feel bad for the Finns. It has nothing to do with nationalities. It has verything to do with hockey, common sense and both humanity of and feel for the game. In both cases, I do not think the right ruling was reached. I discussed the WJC play after it happened, so we'll focus here on the more recent play.
Let's take a step back here to a simpler time. My mentors, John McCauley and Frank Udvari, taught me how to complicated boil a call down to its essence: WHAT actually happened on the play? WHY does the rule in question exist? Then apply your feel for the game to judge. Yes, it's common sense, but common sense is, sadly, often in short supply in today's game when it comes to the rule book.
OK, now let's break things down on what unfolded, at least as I saw it. The referee signaled for a tripping penalty on the USA goaltender as she came out of the net; so the official did not see the play as goaltender interference (nor did I, although it wasn't necessarily tripping, either). What I saw was the Finnish player actually trying to avoid contact. Both she and the goaltender were going for the puck and, in the course of doing that, there was incidental contact that resulted in Petra Nieminen scoring on the rebound.
To me, this looked like a legal hockey play on all sides, and a legitimate goal for the Finns.
How would I have handled/coached this situation: 1) I coach officials to funnel down the net for optimal positioning on a play such as this, 2) When reviewing the call on the monitor, take a second look and view the available angles. If, however, you are still uncertain about whether it's a good goal then go with whatever was the original call made on the ice. In this case, the delay went on far too long.
This wasn't a play that centered on whether a puck fully crossed the goal line -- in which case, a protracted delay and many viewing may be in order. This was a goalie interference judgment, and either there was or wasn't goalie interference. The aspect of the tripping call the referee made was not reviewable. However, it should have been taken into account that the referee certainly didn't see the play as goaltender interference as it happened and ruled what subsequently happened as a legal goal on a delayed penalty.
There is not is nothing in the video that I've seen that conclusively shows there to be goaltender interference under IIHF rules that the call on the ice needed to be reversed to no goal. Side note: I'm not a fan of the ultimate power for goal/no goal rulings to ultimately be taken out of the hands of the on-ice officials and put into the hands of unseen and unnamed judges. But that's a topic for a different blog.
A Class of 2018 inductee to 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.