While bad calls like the one referee Paul Devorski made in the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday provide easy material for one-liners on Twitter, there’s no reason why mistakes like the one he made should stand uncontested.

Devorski waved off what would have, and should have, been the 2-2 goal by Ales Hemsky in the third period when he ruled that Sam Gagner, who’d been pushed into the crease, interfered with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. While there was no contact between Gagner and Varlamov, Devorski immediately waved off the goal without giving the Oiler forward a minor penalty.

At best, the ruling by Devorski was questionable. At worst, as duly noted by Oilers fans at great length in the wake of another loss, the call was nothing short of farcical and brutal, another example of incompetent officiating by referees employed by the NHL, the best hockey league on the planet. It’s a call that had several Oilers in hot pursuit of Devorski, and with good reason.

It was then and there somebody from the NHL office should have been on the phone to an official in the timekeeper’s box at the Pepsi Center insisting Devorski take a second look before play resumed or that Edmonton coach Tom Renney was able to issue a challenge – something more official than, "Devo, WTF are you talking about?"

Unfortunately, the rules and protocols employed by the NHL right now don’t allow for either action. That should change, and the sooner the better.


Making the right call should be the bottom line for the NHL, and with all the technology available and the number of eyes on any given play at league headquarters, there’s no reason not to get it right – or, at the very least, to insist an official like Devorski take a second look on discretionary calls.

Reviews happen now to determine if a puck completely crosses the goal line or is directed into the net with a high stick or by a "distinct kicking motion" with a skate. They don’t happen on discretionary calls made in a split second, like the one made by Devorski in Denver.

There is no good reason why the NHL shouldn’t put in a place a system where a supervisor, be it one in the rink or back in Toronto, can get on the phone and say, "Devo, we think you need to look at the play again." I can’t think of one, unless taking a minute or two to get it right isn’t worth it.

Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, I think most people will agree Devorski, like every other NHL referee, wants to make the right call and that officials do not want to influence the outcome of games with the wrong call.


The phone should have rang and Devorski should have been afforded a second look on a monitor at the timekeeper’s bench. Mick McGeough should have had the same opportunity when he made a phantom hand-pass call on Shawn Horcoff in a game several years ago. Instead, his only option was to apologize shame-faced after the fact for blowing it.

If allowing referees the ability to take a second look isn’t prompted by off-ice officials, then the other option is to allow coaches to challenge calls, as is done in the CFL and the NFL. One per game. Two per game. Maybe issue a penalty if a replay shows the referee got it right. Details.

I’m not as big on the coaching challenge option as I am on having off-ice officials call for a review when it’s deemed worthwhile, but it’s the end-game that’s the bottom line: make the right call at the right time. Fining referees behind closed doors or denying them cheques at playoff time, after-the-fact, discipline, doesn’t right the wrong in the here and now.

Get it right. Take a second look.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Give the coach the right to challenge once per game, if he is wrong you take away that teams time out. If he is correct the time out stays.

    Also I like the idea of the off-ice official.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      Time-out in the NFL is way more important than the NHL.

      Also I think the refs should have some control to reverse calls. Cause I’m pretty sure they just can’t, they don’t have the authority, unless it’s a high-stick, or if the puck crossed the line or not.

      I’m not sure if you said it but what could be challenged? Minor penalties? And would you have to use the challenge for plays that would already be reviewable?

      • Wanyes bastard child

        I don’t watch the NFL at all but I still think the time-out is important in hockey eh.

        When your group of guys are out there gassed after an icing and going against fresh troops.

        To settle your team down when the play gets out of control.

        Plan for an advantage, etc.

  • I think something needs to be made clear. He doesn’t HAVE to touch the goalie for the goal to be called off.

    Rule 69 – Interference on the Goalkeeper 69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper – This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal

    The part where Devorski got it wrong was that Gagner was pushed in.

    If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

    It was a bad call but not as terrible as everyone made it out to be. That being said, I would really be for the coaches challenge thing.

    • You’re right.

      I’ve seen this call before and the issue on the play in Denver isn’t necessarily contact. As you point out, though, Gagner was pushed into the crease and, if anything, he appeared to be making a legitimate attempt to stay out of the way as opposed to hanging around once pushed in.

      Also, for me at least, I didn’t like Devorski’s angle of view on the play.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      Considering Varlomov was out of position, and didn’t contact Gagner while attempting to get over for the save.

      Then i don’t believe rule 69 should apply here either.

      • That’s the point. Him being out of position doesn’t matter as long as his path is impeded getting back into position. Did he turn to get back before the puck was shot? I dunno but that would also be something to consider.

        Also the point of my post was that under that rule contact does not have to be made.

        It was a bad call. However I think this really falls under the realm of human error, it was unfortunate but not so bad that I can’t put the peices together to understand how it happened.
        (Like when Peckham shot the puck through the camera hole and all the refs/linesman got together and decided someone “saw” it go over the glass, THAT was outrageous)

        The real issue here isn’t that the call he made was so bad he deserves to get fired or any such nonsense but as Brownlee stated about whether or not there should be an opportunity in the game to fix those mistakes. Currently there is not.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    That call definitely made me think of the phantom hand pass that McGoof called. I still can’t believe it but McGoof always wanted to be a bigger story than the game itself.

    Anyways, I agree. Get it right, I don’t care if it causes a 5 minutes delay (yesterday’s call would have only needed one look to overturn it). It was a brutal call but in real time, it looked like Sam might have made contact. You only have one chance to make the call and sometimes your eyes lie to you.

  • neojanus

    I’m not one of those guys that wrathfully bitches about the refereeing in sports when I don’t get my way, but it seems to me that the officiating this season across the league has been some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time.

    I’ve seen more phantom calls, missteps, quick whistles, and inconsistencies than ever before.

    The disconnect between Shanny’s new NHL and the refereeing as the season winds down must be an insane frustration to players and coaches.

    I know that as professionals, players and coaches generally say the right things, but some must be foaming at their mouths.

    I’m I imagining this terrible officiating? I’m I just noticing it more? I don’t just mean for the Oilers either… it seems sloppy all around.

      • master of my domain

        As far as the coaches challenge, I like the idea with consequences for plays that are not over turned by the coaches challenge.

        Conversely, I don’t think it should be limited to just one challenge per game. What happens if an official makes two bad call in the same game?

        • Wanyes bastard child

          As I stated before, I don’t watch the NFL but from my understanding if the coach misses a challenge the consequence is losing a time-out?

          Thats why giving the NHL coach one chance to make a challenge with the threat of losing a time out, or say a 2 minute bench minor, would reduce the amount of calls he would challenge. He would have to make his challenge count or else we’d get every call made by a ref challenged eh.

  • Sorensenator

    Darly Katz paid off NHL officiating after the half way point in the season when it was clear Edmonton was not making the playoffs yet again. Might as well get as close to the number 1 pick if you dont make the playoffs lol.

  • master of my domain

    I’d like to see all of the officials (including linesmen) have a quick discussion before confirming calls, kind of like in the NFL.

    eg. ref calls high stick, during discussion linesman says he clearly saw the players own teammates stick hit him, call reversed. It wouldn’t change a lot of calls, nor would it take up a lot of time. but with 4 officials on the ice, why not use them all.

    with that being said, I also agree that it’s time to start using the review system more effecitvely

  • Short of someone inventing Robo-refs I don’t see an answer to this situation. The officiating in the NHL is broken and any other argument is pretty hard to support. What is the NHL’s explanation for the number of calls being significantly down from previous interpretations of the rulebook.

    They showed repeated fouls by the ‘Lanch where players had can openers applied etc.Narry a call, particularly when it was Jan Heyda mugging an Oiler forward. Not so long ago cutting a wet fart within three feet of an NHL goalie got you penalized.

    The hole issue that has come to light this year in particular relating to young players/teams having to take inordinate abuse or having to kiss the referee’s ring to get equitable treatment is non-sensical.

    Off with their heads.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Who are we to question NHL policy. They’ve been tinkering with the rules since 1917 to makes sure the on ice product is at its best.

    Know your role Canadian hockey fans…shut the frigg up and continue paying double the ticket prices so you can subsidize the struggling US based teams. In this 3.2 billion dollar industry, the fan is the least of the NHL’s concern. Sometimes we’re entertained, and sometimes it’s a flaming bag of poop on display. Our role is to just keep paying for whatever comes through those doors on game nights.

    • Please, some respect for the often-maligned flaming bag of poop.

      For the record, it worked like a hot-damn in the 1960s and was a source of great amusement for many Halloweens on end when Mr. Sande — a miserable old guy who really did yell at people to get off his lawn — would answer his doorbell and get to stomping.

      We laughed.

      • Milhouse Van Ched

        First thought that even came to my mind when this happen and they showed the overhead view. Where exactly is Gags going to go. Landy there isn’t letting him go back out the way he went in and the goalie is in front of him. He did the right thing by standing still and not pushing and shoving anyone to get a penalty.

        Also I’ve watched many a game where refs have seen fit to dictate the pace and ,in some cases it would seem, the outcome. For instance not calling any penalties for 2 and half periods and then starting at the end of the game. To me that is manipulation. We saw it in the playoffs as well last season. When penalties stop being called it puts a bias towards the more physical less skilled teams,arguably the Boston’s and St Louis’s, and take away the chances for teams that build around the rules of the game with skill and system play.

        All anyone wants is equality and consistent play calling by the rules that have been set by the NHL who also employ the refs to enforce those rules. By not making calls when they happen would be like a cop watching a robbery and no doing a single thing about even though its his job.

  • Clyde Frog

    I have no idea why professional sports leagues hate technology…

    Why do we have to have all the officials on the ice and only on the ice?

    Why not place a off-ice team with access to video/the whole ice surface in two-way communication with their on-ice brethren?

    Is it we believe that having officials with “Big Brother” like skills would remove some part of the game where players get away with sh*t simply because they are good at getting a jab in when the ref’s head is turned?

    There is no technical reason why the NHL couldn’t have updated their referees for the 21st century… Is it cost?

    Why force the coaches hands with challenges or make referees second guess themselves to maybe catch a bad call, just freaking review everything as it happens with a second set of eyes!

  • Milhouse Van Ched

    Agree. Like football, the NHL has to allow a coach to challenge a call in these circumstances. Perhaps in the case of the Devorski call on Saturday afternoon, Renney should have been allowed to contest by throwing a jock strap at Devorski to signify his call is being challenged!

  • Milhouse Van Ched

    I am fully in favor of reviewing calls.

    I think teams should get 2 reviews per game. If the team is wrong the first time they get a 2 minute minor penalty.
    If the team is wrong twice they get a 5 minute major penalty.

    Can only be used to call a penalty in the case of an injury.

    In the case of a non-penalty call where an injury was caused, and a penalty is imposed – where a goal was scored by the team whom committed the foul. The goal will be disallowed and the play will be taken back the point where the whistle would have been blown.

    In the case of a penalty call being reversed where the team wronged has had a goal scored on them while the other team had its goal pulled – it will still count as they should have been able to defend.

  • paul wodehouse

    …the dreaded of all human effect…Devorski would be blamed for pilot error if this had been a plane crash…sadly the flight simulator was booked the day Paul needed some work…Oilers get jobbed!!!

    BUT if the league & GMs wanted… the ref should be able to call for a second look for a ruling in any case…or is that just wishful thinking that a ref would question his own call ever … it’s all so simple and silly at the same time

  • Milhouse Van Ched

    I’m probably in the minority but I would hate for the game to be delayed with a review every time there’s a questionable call. Was it a horrible call? Yes, but in the long run for every one like that that goes against you there will be a blown call that works in your favor. Nothing worse than when the game stops for 5 minutes for a review. I would get rid of it all together even for goal calls but that’s just my 2 cents.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I totally agree with you. I love the fact that FIFA soccer doesn’t use any replay at all. Games are played by people and they should be refereed by the people on the field or rink. Replay does nothing but disrupt the flow of the game. I’ll live with the occasional mistake whether it’s against my team or not.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With a lull in the season my mind has started to wander (which may be bad news for a few here)

    Would the Canadians be interested in having the second and third pick in this summers draft?

    Carey Price in exchange for that second selection+ in June.

    Please feel free to stomp on this post if it’s a bad idea.

      • D-Man

        I would love to see Carey Price in an Oilers uniform, but why would the Canadians even consider dealing an Olympic goalies for a 2nd pick maybe?? They might have considered that when they had Halak but they have Peter Budaj as their back up… Would you deal Carey Price for Gregorenko and Khabby/Dubnyk, if you were the Canadians GM?? Granted – Gauthier signed Kaberle so me might have another bright moment of stupidity and consider it…

        A fair trade for Price would probably be something like our 2nd pick, Gagner, MPS and Dubnyk… We probably should ask for a 2nd rounder coming back – but I’m thinking that’s a fair price… Now with that being said – would you give that up??

  • Quicksilver ballet

    That end of the ice is cursed as far as the Oilers are concerned. I remember a few yrs ago the officials allowed a goal to stand while the left post was off its peg by about a foot. Tommy Salo was interfered with, net was off, puck goes back to the blueliner who hammers it home into a net off its one peg. Anyone else remember that incident in Colorado?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hemsky’s been burned twice by a bad call. Same thing in Buffalo, when Miller wasn’t even touched and the goal was waived….. Noticed that the BJ’s got burned on the weekend by a similar bad call…is there corellation?

    • Good link.

      Fraser talks a lot about common sense stuff as it applies to the rulebook in his takes. I was going to include a link to a past article of his in this item — he’s long talked about allowing referees the ability to review plays that are not reviewable now.