Sharks’ ‘phantom goal’ against Sabres did go in, but like life, the NHL isn’t always fair

Adam Proteau
187059677 Sharks Sabres

Sports officials have always been and will always be the easiest of targets. Everybody thinks they can do better – or that anyone could do better – but nothing could be further from the truth. And even when the error is serious and obvious to many as it was during Tuesday’s Sharks/Sabres game, it’s little more than a waste of breath to stamp your feet and scream about it.

Hard as it may be to take, the NHL always has been and always will be a league subjectively-officiated by human beings. The best teams know errors are coming that will hurt them and they also realize they’ll have to overcome them to win.

As the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman chronicled in his discussion with NHL senior v-p of hockey operations Mike Murphy about the “phantom” overtime goal that should have given San Jose the win over Buffalo, the NHL puts value and trust in the real-time, non-slow-motion calls that referees have to make over the course of a game. In this instance, referee Mike Leggo missed the puck go past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, but go past him it did.

Now, it’s fair to argue that the league should look to utilize video replay more than it does. And there may come a day in the relative near-future where the NHL allows a TV monitor for on-ice officials to look at after making a call. But even then, that’s no guarantee calls will always be made correctly. The very nature of officiating requires split second judgments at key points in any particular game. Say, for instance, the ninth inning of a World Series baseball game:

Even when the call is expected to be an automatic call like obstructing the runner in baseball, an umpire could have been in a position where his interpretation of the events were different from everyone else’s interpretation. He made the right call this time, but there was no assurance he would. The call that was made to end that Red Sox/Cardinals game didn’t please everyone, but that’s an impossible goal – and pleasing people shouldn’t be the focus of any official.

As Murphy told Friedman, nobody is doubting the puck crossed the line. But in the rapid action of a game, in real time, the call was made and has to stand. Video replay isn’t a panacea to make the game error-proof.

It’s not perfect and certainly not fair, but have you looked at life lately?