The curious case of the broken stick goal

Justin Abdelkader scored 24 seconds into overtime to help lead the Detroit Red Wings over the St. Louis Blues.

Last Sunday, I saw something I have never seen before. And I’m sure my friends at the NHL haven’t seen it before, either. And quite frankly, I think they hope to never see it again.

It took three replays from three different angles to confirm what no official could see in real-time. At 20 seconds into overtime, the Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader tapped in his 20th goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 victory over St. Louis. Only one problem…his stick was broken.

Abdelkader played the puck with the lower part of his stick and blade from his familiar place in front of the net, almost on Jake Allen’s lap. If the referee had seen it, it would have been a no goal call and a two-minute minor, and overtime would have continued.

A play such as this, by the league’s own rules and interpretations, is NOT reviewable from the Situation Room in Toronto. And because the two officials on the ice didn’t see it (tt truly did happen so quickly), it was ruled a good goal. In defence of the officials, none of the broadcasters on the game saw it either.

Truth be told, I’m not sure we will ever see a play like this, in our lifetime. But what if?

What if it happens again in the playoffs? In overtime? In a series clinching game? In a Cup clinching game?

Oh, the humanity! The outcry would be long, loud, and legitimate.

We’ve seen other events taint the game. Like Henri Richard’s magic glove in the 1966 final. Or Brett Hull’s skate in the crease back in 1999 in Buffalo.

What can the NHL do right now to protect itself and the integrity of the game?

Can they use the provision in the video review rules of ruling a “good hockey goal”? We are told that provision wasn’t designed for situations like this. It was designed to prevent pucks that have gone off the netting and into the goal, or pucks that slipped under the bottom of the net.

As with any controversial event, the league does a very good job after the fact in gauging the temperature of senior people around the league on their view.

On the heels of the general managers’ meetings, the topic of expanding video review is one that appears to polarize even the best of friends. Over the past few days, we polled all 30 GMs to ask them, if a play such as the Abdelkader goal should go to video review.

Within 90 minutes of being questioned, 22 had replied. Within six hours only four GMs had not responded. As of noon on Friday, 27 of 30 GMs had weighed in.

Some of the comments:

“I don’t want to review every judgment call but I do like getting it right. Maybe it’s expanding the automatic review boundaries for every goal scored.”

“Don’t like the goal but we have to be very careful. If it wasn’t a goal and a save was made and then goal on rebound. Now what? I have a few of these.”

“I do think NHL video review criteria should be used to review every goal to determine if it entered the net legally – this includes goals directed in with a high stick, goals batted in with a glove, goals ‘kicked’ into the net and, like the Abdelkader incident, goals directed into the net with a broken stick.”

“Tough call. But we want to try to limit the amount of reviews.”

“I saw the broken stick incident, tough call for the ref. In my opinion this should be another call for the guys in the war room. It’s no different than being kicked in.”

“In a perfect world it would be nice to have all goals reviewed. Problem is, that goal is easy to make a decision on. Once you go down the path of reviewing all goals, etc.. there are issues that will arise on calls that are not as clear cut.”

“Boy, that’s a tough one. Seems like logic would say that it should be reviewable.”

“I think it should fall under plays that should be able to be challenged under coaches challenge.”

“It’s the first time I’m aware that this has happened so we don’t need to overreact, but I’d support a review on this type of play.”

In the end, more than half of those who answered (14) felt that the new coach’s challenge should cover a play such as this, with the officials or the video room being involved. A smaller group didn’t want anymore video review used (6), citing the time used on these issues as the main answer, while the remaining GMs admitted they either didn’t see it or didn’t have a definitive opinion on the issue.

Getting it right, making the correct call is truly challenging without video review. The speed of the game, the intensity and density of players in front of the net certainly can justify some level of human error, but at what cost? A single game? A series? The Cup?

And while it is only one goal, in a 1230 game season, it is one that probably requires a proactive response. You have to wonder if it gets put on the agenda for the managers during the Stanley Cup Final.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.