What is this, pro wrestling? Why can't NHL replay be better? | Sam Donnellon

Bobby Ryan OT goal for Ottawa vs Boston
Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (9) beats Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) for the game-winning goal during overtime in Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series in Boston, Monday, April 17, 2017. The Senators defeated the Bruins 4-3.

When I was 13, I was taken to my first-ever pro wrestling match in Portland, Maine by a short-order cook named Ricky Butterfield. Despite being several years older, Ricky said he believed in the authenticity of the match more than I did, and was therefore in a froth when, at a critical juncture of the tag-team match pitting Chief Jay Strongbow and Andre the Giant against Professor Toru Tanaka and Mr. Fuji, the referee did not see Tanaka throw salt in the Chief’s eyes, thus relegating him helpless.

I sometimes wonder how it might have played out if wrestling had replay review at the time. Would points be deducted? A disqualification?


Then again, if it was the NHL brand of replay review, in which some transgressions are reviewable and some are not, the sneaky professor might have gotten away with it anyway.

Take, for example, Bobby Ryan’s overtime goal for Ottawa the other night in Boston, where he elbowed a player’s head into the boards, flopped like a well-trained wrestler when Bruins forward Riley Nash face-raked him, then scored the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play.

Penalty calls are not reviewable. Otherwise, at the very least, Ryan might have been cited for the elbow, the embellishment, or both. The same is true for Columbus captain Nick Foligno, who drew a high-sticking penalty early in Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh with a well-timed jerk of the head. When his playing days are over, he should do clinics. The Blue Jackets beat Washington earlier this season after Foligno pulled the same stunt to draw a penalty on Nicklas Backstrom.

Goalie interference calls are reviewable, but not ones in which the goaltender is bumped outside of his crease. Then it goes to a judgment call by the official on the ice over whether it was incidental or intentional. So, Nashville’s tying goal in Tuesday night’s 3-2 victory over Chicago stood, even as replays showed Viktor Arvidsson skating into Corey Crawford’s left pad and taking a hack at his stick, as the puck was shot from the slot.

The NHL’s replay situation room in Toronto reviewed the play to see if the puck had crossed the line before the net was dislodged, but Rule 69 prevented any ruling over the contact.

Chicago fans were as understandably outraged as Ricky Butterfield.

As were Boston fans, who, like Tanaka, threw their own foreign substances on the ice at the game’s conclusion. Look, I like a Boston/New England loss as much as any Philadelphian, and I like when things go well for local kid Ryan, too.

But it still left an unsavory taste. And it still emphasized the ultimately unsatisfactory way replay is used in hockey, and in other sports. If I get only one challenge a game, why can’t I use it on anything? And if it’s clear the official missed the old salt-in-the-eyes trick, or got the wrong guy, why can’t the guys who know what occurred fix it, rather than allow what happened in Boston the other night?

I know Ricky would be with me on this.

Wherever he is.