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NHL approves rule to penalize unusccessful off-side challenges

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Will this lead to fewer play stoppages?

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The off-side challenge is a useful tool for coaches. It’s been, quite often, a means of negating a goal by literally inches, or less. It’s caught a few players sneaking into the zone before the puck has, but it has often become a Hail Mary of sorts, where coaches challenge a play for being offside when it hasn’t been. The thought process could be that the penalty for an unsuccessful challenge isn’t that big of a deal (a loss of the team’s time out) when weighed against the potential for a goal to count against your team.

While that line of thought makes sense, what it results in is multiple unnecessary play stoppages while the officials review the tape caught by the blue-line cameras. Concerned over the potential to slow the flow of a game down, the league’s Board of Governors approved a rule change today that should speed stuff up. From the NHL’s press release:

BOARD APPROVES RULE PENALIZING UNSUCCESSFUL OFF-SIDE CHALLENGE

NEW YORK (Sept. 27, 2017) – The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors today approved a change to the Coach’s Challenge Rule (Rule 78.7), which will provide for the assessment of a two-minute minor penalty for unsuccessful Coach’s Challenges to alleged Off-Side infractions leading to goals.

The penalty for the unsuccessful off-side challenge replaces the loss of a team’s time-out – which had been in place since the implementation of the Coach’s Challenge in 2015. Under the revised rule, a team does not have to possess its time-out in order to issue a challenge on the particular play – nor will it forfeit its time-out in the event of an unsuccessful challenge.

Rule 78.7(b) now will read:

b) If the result of the challenge is that the play was on-side, the goal shall count and the team that issues the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.

What the line of thinking is here is that the coaches won’t want to risk a power play and a potential opposition goal on a “just in case” move, and the BoG is probably right. If there’s a more true definition of delay of game than holding up the action by five minutes while officials squint at a teeny tablet, I can’t think of one.

The other thing that the BoG is probably taking into consideration is overall league scoring. Having goals called back by off-side challenges cuts into that; they’d probably rather have a few more goals on the point sheet, and letting the rules be skirted here and there is worth it to them.

Time will tell how much this improves the overall pace of a game, but the Blues will probably be happy that more of their goals will count. They did not appear to have the best track record with coaches’ challenges last season.