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NHL’s Intent To Blow Rules Needs Review

By Colin Likas
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No professional sport is 100-percent perfect. The four major ones in the United States all have their issues, as shown by frequent rule changes, lockouts and other events of that nature. Today, I want to talk about perhaps the silliest rule in the four major professional sports: the NHL’s intent to blow rule.

We saw the intent to blow rule cost the Chicago Blackhawks in their season-opener Wednesday against the New York Rangers. Here is the play in question:

As you can see, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane jam away at a loose puck under Henrik Lundqvist until Kane pokes it into the net. But referee Steve Kozari comes flying into the picture immediately with the call that he intended to blow his whistle after losing sight of the puck under Lundqvist.

I want to make one thing clear before I debate the logic behind the intent to blow rule: I think the lost-sight-of-the-puck rule is fine as is. If the officials did not have the ability to blow dead a play after losing sight of the puck, you’d just have guys jamming away at a loose puck until someone gets hurt or into a fight over repeated stick jabbing. That rule makes sense.

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But officials need to be on top of everything and ready to make their call on a play. I know it can’t be an easy job by any means, but this is part of the reason the intent to blow rule exists, in my view.

Kozari, on the above play, had a momentary lapse during which he didn’t blow his whistle or make any sort of gesture regarding losing sight of the puck until after it had crossed the goal line. Thus, the intent to blow rule comes into effect.

Now just think about how insane this is. Think about how it could be used it other leagues …

NFL: I meant to call offensive holding on the play, but I just forgot when the play was actually happening. Offensive holding now enforced, first down other team.

MLB: I meant to call a strike, but I froze up and didn’t make a signal. I’ve now decided that pitch was a strike, and this World Series is over.

NBA: I meant to call traveling, but I was looking at two guys jostling for position below the net and missed it. Thankfully one of the other players told me I missed the travel, so now it’s a travel. Possession to the other team.

And if you think I’m being melodramatic, recall this play:

Niklas Hjalmarsson‘s goal in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs was ruled no goal because referee Stephen Walkom meant to call offsetting penalties on Brendan Smith and Brandon Saad before the goal was scored.

Meant to? Well I’m sure Jimmy Howard meant to stop Hjalmarsson’s shot attempt, but it just didn’t happen. So why do referees get automatic second chances that can often change the course of a hockey game? Because the game is fast? It’s fast for everyone. Adjust instead of coming up with a rule that typically makes officials look incompetent.

This is entirely different from video review as well. Video review allows the officials (and others) to see evidence of an uncertain play on the ice. The intent to blow rule is based entirely on what one official says his thought process was prior to a play occurring. What is this, the Minority Report?

The intent to blow rule is probably the least understood rule in the four major sports, and it usually winds up transferring a win or a big momentum swing from one team to another. NHL officials need to be trained to make an immediate motion when they say a play is dead and not go to a rule that literally makes no sense and just infuriates everyone on the ice. What the official says is final, unless video review overturns something. And video review isn’t supposed to be used hand-in-hand with the “I lost sight of the puck” rule, though it was utilized in Wednesday’s Blackhawks-Rangers game for some reason.

What the NHL needs to realize is this: What happens is what happens, and that’s it. No intent for something else to happen. No trying to read the mind of an official in the heat of the moment. If the referee wanted to call something but wasn’t able to do so in time, well that’s just too bad. The only time I think this shouldn’t apply is on the aforementioned video-reviewable plays, such as seeing if a puck completely crossed the goal line, was kicked in to the net or was hit with a high stick before going into the net.

Just eliminate the doubt and save everyone, especially the already very busy on-ice officials, future major headaches.

Next: Chicago Blackhawks Need To Make Defense Decision

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