NHL GMs vote to not alter offside rule, but want goalie interference process changed

The NHL's annual general manager meetings were held in Boca Raton, Florida, this week, giving all 31 GMs a chance to congregate and discuss what changes, if any, need to be made to improve the way the league operates moving forward. Often, this is when we see additions or amendments to the league's rulebook gain traction.

Heading into this year's meetings, two of the most noteworthy discussion points revolved around offside infractions and goaltender interference, two reviewable rules that have been the source of much frustration from players, coaches and fans over the past few years.

And while both rules (and their accompanying review process) were discussed by GMs this week, only one of the two was actually seen as enough of an issue to make a change.

There won't be any changes made to the way the league approaches offside rulings, at least not this season.

The biggest gripe about the rule as it stands seems to be that skaters can be ruled offside if one skate enters the zone before the puck with the trailing skate off the ice, even if it's just an inch or so off the surface. This part of the rule hasn't changed in recent years, but the implementation of the coach's challenge has led to an increasing number of goals being overturned because of it.

For example, this goal from last season's Stanley Cup Final that was called back to an offside on Nashville's Filip Forsberg.

It would be tough to blame a referee for missing that call on the ice, as it's such a minuscule infraction of the rule that it's tough to catch with a naked eye in real time. However, the coach's offside challenge allows officials to consult frame-by-frame breakdowns of zone entries, allowing them to catch even the slightest of transgressions. 

There has been some discussion about whether the rule should be changed to treat the blue line as a plane (meaning players could have a skate off the ice as long as it wasn't fully across the line) but, ultimately, the general managers decided to keep the offside rule as is.

The NHL's executive vice president and director of hockey operations, Colin Campbell, said that he doesn't care for the hovering skate infraction on offside reviews, but that there weren't enough votes to bring it to the league's competition committee and Board of Governors. Campbell said only around 10 general managers voted in favor of a change to the rule, which is short of the two-thirds necessary to propose a change.

However, there was more support when it came to enacting a change in the process of determining goaltender interference, which isn't too surprising. At this point, goaltender interference is to the NHL what a catch is to the NFL, in that nobody really knows what constitutes either.

For the NHL, the main issue regarding goaltender interference remains the consistency with which it's enforced. The league's hockey operations department has struggled to nail down a clear-cut definition and enforcement policy for the rule over the past few years. As a result, it often comes down to the discretion of officials on the ice, leading to varying interpretations of the rule. 

The league's general managers want that changed. This week, they've proposed taking the goalie interference challenges out of the referee's hands and letting the league's central situation room in Toronto make the final determinations.

That amendment to the process will need to be approved by players and referees before it can take effect. Officials might not be thrilled with having the final ruling taken out of their hands, but it would theoretically bring a bit more consistency to the way goalie interference is called. 

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories