Enough “Intent to Blow” Already…


The “intent to blow” rule is infamous to most NHL followers.  It is understandable that rule exists.  It’s meant to be a safety net for the ref.  The time it takes them to reach for their whistles could be time enough for the opposition to shove until the puck comes free…  but then there are times when this rule leads to some of the worst calls you’ll ever see.

Indefensibly bad calls.

The kinds of calls that make us all collectively wonder why there are even replays in Toronto, if you can’t overturn something as blatant as what happened to the San Jose Sharks.

Go here for a replay of the goal.

The explanation was once again that the intent to blow rule was to blame; which means that Referee Mike Leggo lost sight of the puck long enough to justify stopping play, but he just didn’t have enough time reach for his whistle.  This mere intent on the part of the referee nullifies anything else happening on the ice.  It nullifies whether or not the puck was covered and whether the other ref or linesmen can see it.  It pretty much nullifies reality.  It’s a familiar call for many NHL fans.

But why should intent matter when intent is unjustifiable?  Are we so committed to the letter of the law with that rule that the situation room in Toronto can’t even use basic evidence in an otherwise overturnable play?  This isn’t a puck that was covered and then knocked loose.  It was a puck that was sitting free and clear, and got knocked in well before Leggo blew the play dead.  If a play is so clearly unaffected by whether or not the ref could reach their whistle, why not make it reviewable?

Perhaps the most ridiculous goal I’ve ever seen waved off was the one Brad May scored in 2009.   The puck wasn’t covered or loose.  It didn’t bobble and trickle across the goal line slowly.  It went directly into the net.  There is no possible way that the ref could have intended to blow the play dead.   The only reason the ref lost sight of the puck was because it was already in the net.  Yep, intent to blow even trumps the laws of space and time.  All the ref has to do is think and POW, the play is dead.  It’s such a strange power superpower that I feel like the Vulcans should have it or something.

Somehow, even that egregious bit of refereeing is upheld by the seeming infallibility of intent to blow.  It’s idiotic to give a referee’s intent such absolute power, when the sport is already acknowledging the human propensity to err by having video reviews in many other similar circumstances.   I understand the slippery slope argument too.   Where do we draw the line?  Do we begin reviewing split second penalties, or goalie interference calls?  In my mind, this isn’t comparable to those situations.  A referee should not be allowed to revoke an otherwise legal hockey goal, when their actions and the actions of others did not interfere with play (There was no whistle, therefore no players thought the play was dead!), and there is no real logical reason to invoke the rule (nobody is being pushed into the net, which has its own rule anyways… no pucks are being poked loose, nobody is lying on the ice in trouble!).   Something as subjective as what constitutes a kicking motion should be in Toronto’s hands, but not whether or not a play should have been well, not actually, blown dead?

The sad thing is that this is a bipartisan issue here.   Nobody.  Likes This.  Rule.    Years and years of embarrassing, indefensible calls, and we’re still having this tired old conversation.   Years of “they really blew it this time!” and “somebody owes us a #$%& damn explanation!”

How many more times will we have to endure some half-ass attempt from the league offices to justify this rule as the “right call”?  Enough already.  It’s just gotten silly.

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