Gary Bettman on challenge system: 'Everyone is overthinking reviews'

TAMPA -- As criticism of the NHL coach's challenge grows louder around the league, commissioner Gary Bettman wants a little less scrutiny and a little more common sense in these reviews.

"We need to give a refresher to the officials. Take a good look, a quick look, but don't search it to death," Bettman said Saturday ahead of the NHL All-Star skills competition in Tampa.

"Overall, the system works, but I think we've gotten to the point where everyone is overthinking reviews. The intention, particularly on goaltender interference, should be 'Did we miss something?' It shouldn't be 'Dan you search for something to overturn a call?' The presumption should be that the call on the ice was good, unless you have a good reason to overturn it. You shouldn't have to search to overturn it."

The coach's challenge allows teams to ask for video reviews of goals, to search for goalie interference and offside calls that might have been missed during the play.

Goalie interference has been a hot topic among those at All-Star weekend after a controversial call against the Edmonton Oilers earlier in the week. The Oilers lost a goal after it was ruled that Connor McDavid clipped Calgary goalie David Rittich's blocker with his skate in the crease. McDavid later showed up the on-ice officials when scoring a goal in the shootout, telling them to "check upstairs."

A meeting between several general managers, on-ice officials and league executives on Saturday found a consensus that reviews should hue closer to the rulebook, which states that "if a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the original call on the ice will be confirmed."

A recent poll of the NHL's 31 coaches by TSN found that 14 wanted goalie interference reviews altered and three wanted them removed from the coach's challenge.

"Goalie interference is a judgment call. We live in a society with all these cameras and replays and the slow-mos and all that, that we want black and white. And goalie interference isn't black and white," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.

That it isn't, but many in the NHL have suggested that taking the final call on a goalie interference coach's challenge away from the on-ice officials and giving it to the NHL war room might create more consistency, rather than having a different set of eyes and standards each game.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there isn't an appetite to take the calls away from on-ice officials, but the league's war room hopes to have a "stronger influence" on decisions.

"The reason we kept the call on the ice is because it's a judgement call. The official on the ice has a better feel for what happened on the play. They focus on things you'd never see on video: players' body language, what they're seeing, where they are looking," he said.

Goalie interference remains one of the sport's most subjective calls. Refs have a standard. The war room has a standard. And, of course, the goalies themselves have a lower standard.

"Ideally, I just want to be able to have a chance at every puck. If a player comes across and hits my face or takes my stick out of the way, that's really going to throw me off-balance, that's really going to mess with my mechanics," Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said. "Anything that pulls us away from our positioning, I'd like that to be goalie interference."

There had been 102 coach's challenges for goalie interference through Jan. 24, with 66 on-ice calls upheld and 36 overturned -- 31 of those to "no goal." The situation room initiated 13 and upheld 11.

From the players to the coaches to the NHL front office, there doesn't seem to be an urgency to remove goalie interference from the coach's challenge.

"I think it's a necessary tool in our business," Trotz said. "We want goals in the National Hockey League. But we want goals that are legal."