Written by: Jonathan Camponovo

Welcome to this new article of NHL Corner of Leading Sport!

Today’s subject is something that oftentimes is underrated, diminished and subject to excessive criticism. We’re talking about referees and rules. Way too often we forget that without refs sport and ice hockey wouldn’t exist. Just like the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation says: no Refs, no Game. The refs job, anyway, is constantly influenced by the rules that change every year. Nowadays, the trend is to rely more and more on technology with the latter that, ideally, should lead to less (or none) mistakes.

And it’s exactly what we want to talk about today. Firstly, we list briefly the main changes of the NHL rules, and then we will make a list of “pro” and “cons”.

We also want to stress that oftentimes the NHL rules (new or old ones) are then also applied in our NL and in Europe in general. This topic, therefore, can become up to date also when it comes to our league.

2019-20 NHL season, new rules

Here are the main new rules in view of the 2019-20 NHL season concerning the use of technology.

Expanded video review (from nhl.com)

In addition to Coach’s Challenge for “Off-side” and “Interference on the Goalkeeper”, a third category will allow for the Coach’s Challenge of goal calls on the ice that follow plays in the Offensive Zone that should have resulted in a play stoppage, but did not.

This change will allow Challenges of plays that may involve pucks that hit the spectator netting, pucks that are high-sticked to a teammate in the offensive zone, pucks that have gone out of play but are subsequently touched in the offensive zone and hand passes that precede without a play stoppage and ultimately conclude in the scoring of a goal. Plays that entail “discretionary stoppages” (e.g. penalty calls) will not be subject to a Coach’s Challenge.

Coach’s Challenges for these types of plays (and for “Off-Side” Challenges) will only be available if the puck does not come out of the attacking zone between the time of the “missed” infraction and the time the goal is scored.

MAJOR & MATCH PENALTIES: Referees will be required to conduct an on-ice video review for all Major (non-fighting) and Match Penalties they assess on the ice for the purpose of: (a) “confirming” the penalty; or (b) “reducing” the penalty to a two-minute minor penalty. Referees shall not have the option to rescind a called penalty altogether.

The Referees will be provided with all available video to review their own calls but will not otherwise consult with the NHL Situation Room with respect to their review.

DOUBLE MINOR FOR HIGH-STICKING: Referees will have the ability to conduct an on-ice video review to confirm (or not) their original call on the ice, and, in particular, whether the stick causing the apparent injury was actually the stick of the Player being penalized.  The Referee’s review of all High-Sticking/Double-Minor Penalties will be discretionary and not mandatory and will be conducted without consultation with the NHL Situation Room.

Potential pros and cons concerning these changes

It’s obvious that most people look kindly on most of these changes. Also Gary Bettman – NHL director – said during a press conference that the rules follow the technology evolution and it’s a good thing to keep up with the times.

We wanted to analyze this changes and we listed a few pros and cons.

PROS of the new rules


Just how many times we say that games are ruined by the refs and that final scores aren’t fair? With all these changes it’s clear that the refs have less power and the calls are likely to be mostly right as so many new situations can be reviewed.

As an example for that, we show you a video that goes back to the 2019 playoffs conference final, in which our Timo Meier played a key role for Erik Karlsson controversial OT winner for the Sharks. We mean, thanks to the new rule, such goals will be disallowed. That’s exactly what we mean when we say that the game will be more fair.

Less pressure on the refs

Oftentimes the refs are under huge pressure and are stressed as the players, the coaches and the fans try to influence them. Moreover, the game is faster and faster and the refs at times struggle to be at the top of their game. Who can blame them? We struggle on our own from the stands or in front of a TV, let’s imagine to be on ice in the middle of the game.

Well, the fact that many more plays can be reviewed, should help the refs to stay calmer and more focused. Therefore, to be a better ref, it’s as simple as that.

CONS of the new rules

Overuse of the technology and less fluid play

Ice hockey is fun also because games are almost never static. An overuse of the technology will inevitably lead to more breaks and that means a less fluid play. If we think about the NHL… there are already 3 commercial breaks per period, if to that we add more interruptions, it’s safe to say that games will be way too slow.

The risk, moreover, is also that the “coach’s challenge” will be overused by coaches. NHL’s director Gary Bettman, however, already said that an overuse will be punished with a 2 minutes minor penalty whenever the “video review” will confirm the decision taken by the referee live.

Lack of penalties

This is mostly a lack of respect more than a con. Way too many people already complained about the fact that penalties aren’t taken into consideration with these new rules. It’s true that taking also penalties into consideration for “video reviews” would lead to even more breaks… oftentimes, however, fouls in the offensive zone are more common than high-sticks or hand passes…

We mean, the crucial goal scored during game-5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup final came after a clear foul, but such situations can’t be reviewed at the video and therefore injustice will continue. Here is the video of this situation.

Less focused refs

It’s safe to say that refs will be supported and therefore less under pressure. Considering that they’re professionals, we’re pretty sure that they can be focused all the time. However, they should be careful… we mean, they should not think “it’s ok, anyway, in case there is the video review”. That way of thinking would be dangerous, because there are nevertheless countless other rules that require from them to stay focused all the time.

And what about you guys? What are your thoughts on the changes?