Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Video Goal Judge

This post is under review.

2013-14 NHL Official Rules (PDF)

Rule 38 - Video Goal Judge

All the rules about video review are included here in the duties of the Video Goal Judge. Having video review aid getting calls right is a helpful mechanism, but like many sections in the rulebook, video review needs to be cleaned up.

38.1 General Duties:

(i) The Video Goal Judge (VGJ) reviews replays "of disputed goals when requested to do so by the Referees." So the referees don't have to ask him to review anything, but . . .

(ii) "He will review replays of disputed goals when he observes an incident that was undetected by on-ice officials." The VGJ will review goals even when the referees don't ask him to. If he notices something like the puck being batted in with a glove or a puck crossing the line undetected, he will review it and follow the reporting procedures accordingly.

(iii) After the VGJ reviews the play, he'll get the referees' attention and talk about what he just reviewed. Here's the problem (emphasis mine):

When a play has been referred to the Video Goal Judge, his decision shall be final.

We know from Rule 31 - Referees that the referees make the final decision in case of "any" dispute. And 38.1.iii plainly says that the VGJ has final say "when a play has been referred" to him. But if the VGJ's "general duties" include reviewing plays that the on-ice officials miss, why do the referees still have the final decision? And what is the mechanism by which the referee hands over authority to make a decision on a play for something that he supposedly missed? This mess of determining authority leads to garbage like this play. Someone has to have clear overriding authority; the decisions of both the referees and the VGJ can't be final when they're at odds with each other and when they seem in direct conflict with the VGJ's second stated duty.

(iv) The VGJ may have assistance from Hockey Ops or the Officiating department either in person if they're in attendance or by telephone.

(v) Goal reviews (which we'll see in 38.4 are the only reviews permitted in hockey as of this writing) must occur before the puck drops on the next faceoff; for example, when a faceoff is conducted at 15:00, a potential goal that happened at 14:30 can no longer be reviewed. This rule was no more apparent than in this example.

38.2 Goals:

Every goal is to be reviewed by the Video Goal Judge.

You would think that it could be as simple as stating that every goal is reviewed, as well as all potential goals the on-ice officials may have missed. Every goal is reviewed, yet there are mechanisms in place that prevent good goals from counting for no good reason.

There are a couple paragraphs about the procedure the VGJ goes through to let the referee know that he's reviewing a play. Sometimes reviews are quick enough that there isn't much of a delay in resuming play. In times that require a longer delay, PA will announce the plays is under review. If review returns a good goal, it's announced in the regular fashion; if no goal, PA will announce the reason for disallowing the goal as stated by the referee.

The VGJ will relay to the referee at first opportunity that a review is in progress if he's reviewing a potential goal the on-ice officials may have missed.

In addition to reviewing the legality of goals, the VGJ is charged with determining the accurate time of the goal and reporting to the timekeepers if any clocks need to be reset.

When a video review requires a longer delay in the game, the referee will signal the players to go to their respective benches. Failure to comply results in a game misconduct (not a typo) and a fine to the coach. If the banner image is any indication, I'm guessing captains and alternates are exempt from this stipulation even though the rule as written doesn't provide for any exceptions. I personally am not convinced anybody, including the captains, needs to be near the penalty bench without the referees' invitation. It doesn't matter what the players think because whatever they saw is being reviewed on video.

38.3 Reports: After the game, the VGJ must call the NHL office in Toronto and give a verbal report of all video reviews from the game. Some sort of written report must also be faxed or sent electronically to the same office.

38.4 Situations Subject to Video Review:

(i) Did the puck cross the goal line?

(ii) Was the goal dislodged before the puck entered the net?

(iii) Did the puck enter the goal before time expired?

(iv) Was the puck batted into the net with any part of an attacking player's body? This situation also includes reviewing if a puck was kicked into the goal. For the sake of not making this post longer than it already is, I'll save "distinct kicking motion" for Rule 49 - Kicking.

(v) Did the puck deflect into the net off an official? (See Rule 78.5.iii.)

(vi) Was the puck directed into the net with a high-stick from an attacking player? A "high stick" is puck contact with a player's hockey stick above the height of the crossbar.

(vii) What should the correct time be on the official game clock? And finally:

(viii) The video review process shall be permitted to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they are "good hockey goals"). For example (but not limited to), pucks that enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the net from underneath the net frame, pucks that enter the net undetected by the referee, etc.

The current rule as written means that literally anything involving a goal can be reviewed. When people, including the NHL and yours truly, say that "the play is not reviewable" on plays like the Matt Duchene offsides goal or the Niklas Kronwall net-gate, it shows that no one really knows what's in the rulebook. Either the practice needs to change to reflect what's actually written, or the wording of the rule needs to change to clarify what's reviewable and what's not because obviously video review is not being used to determine the legitimacy of "all" potential goals.

38.5 Logistics and Equipment: The VGJ must be in a secluded area of the building and be able to see both goals. The room has to fit three people--VGJ, Video Technician, Supervisor of Officials--and have space for monitors and replay and recording equipment.

If there's any dispute on broadcasts about what angles and replays the VGJ has access to, the rulebook stipulates that he "shall have access to all replays that may be available by reason of any telecasts of the game." So if there's a replay angle he misses, someone didn't do their job. I don't remember the last time an NHL game wasn't on television, but if that's the case, the VGJ will have access to "the Club's internal telecast of the game."

At a minimum, the two overhead camera angles above the goal line must have a "burn in" of the game clock. If available, all video feeds should also have it. The first thing is that this rule implies that there must be an overhead camera angle over both goals, a stipulation I agree with as an aid to video review. The second thing is that there still aren't any written stipulations, despite the "burn in" of the game clock, that will prevent something like this from happening again in the future.

38.6 Verification of Time: See Rule 34.7 - Game Timekeeper: Verification of Time because it's almost entirely copy/paste from there. New info is that the VGJ can establish the correct time when requested by the officials.

The other new piece of info is that if a video review coincides with the end of a period, the on-ice officials will instruct the players to stay at the bench until the review is completed.


I'm not trying to say that the deflection off Martin Gelinas' skate was a goal but that the fact the puck dropped after the following stoppage meant it could no longer be reviewed.