Quick whistles are nothing new in the NHL.
But perhaps never before as one smacked the NHL upside the head like it did Monday night, when referee Kevin Pollock lost sight of the puck on a Filip Forsberg shot. Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray failed to catch or cover the puck, but Pollock lost sight of the puck, perhaps assuming Murray covered the puck. So Pollock blew the whistle as the puck lay behind Murray in the slot, in front of a wide-open net. As Nashville center Colton Sissons was lunging to shoot it in the open net.
Nashville was denied the game’s opening goal. Boos rained down on the Pollock. And rightfully so. He made a mistake at a crucial point of the game.
There’s a way to fix the quick whistle.
For years, it’s been the NHL’s default position that the official is to blow the play dead when he loses sight of the puck. It’s a default position that made some sense in the era of one-ref hockey. But with two refs on the ice, it makes no sense.
You could have the ref blow a play dead when the other ref knows the play is still alive. And it could cost goals in crucial games and leave the NHL with yolk on its face.
It’s time to change the default position. Instead of blowing the play dead when the ref loses sight, the play should continue until a ref knows the puck is covered. If the first ref doesn’t see it, the second ref can blow it dead.
It may seem subtle, but it’s a world of difference. And it would go a long way toward preventing the embarrassing nonsense witnessed by millions of hockey viewers on the NHL’s greatest stage.