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Monday's Editor's Desk: The no-icing call

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A look at the non-call from Sunday's game that may have cost the Coyotes a point.

Vegas Golden Knights v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

Sunday afternoon's game ended in controversy. The Arizona Coyotes had been hanging on for 59 minutes, and in the final minute of the game, the Vegas Golden Knights scored.

The Coyotes were immediately upset at the goal and argued against it. Play continued, and the Coyotes were unable to get a goal with just over 40 seconds left in the game and fell 1-0 to the Golden Knights.

It was a brutal loss for a variety of reasons. The Coyotes hadn't been playing great for the game, but they kept up against a dominant team in the Vegas Golden Knights. Also, Darcy Kuemper had a very nice shutout going and it was a shame to see him lose it like that.

The controversy came to light after the game. There was a question on whether or not Vegas iced the puck, and if it should have been blown dead before it even happened.

If you haven't seen the play, here it is.

Icing is probably one of the worst understand aspects of hockey. Almost every game has an icing call that could go either way. I have seen icing calls get waived off when it looked like they should have applied, and we have seen icing calls happen and everyone on the ice immediately explodes complaining about the call.

Icing is a judgment call, and those are always tough to stomach. Actually, as we will see, icing is two judgment calls.

To start things off it is best to go to the source, the NHL's Official Rules for the 2020-21 season.

Starting with the first paragraph, Alex Tuch definitely crossed the red line. There was some ambiguity in the initial camera angle because the boards were in the way, but this angle clears things up.

So first things first, clearly Tuch left the zone and we need to interpret icing.

The next thing we need to do is determine is if Tuch "gained the line". Per the rules, "'[g]aining the line' shall mean that the puck, while on the player's stick (not the player's skate) must make contact with the center red line in order to nullify a potential icing." (emphasis added)

Was the puck on Tuch's stick when he made contact with the center line? Per the rules he doesn't need to cross the center line, just make contact. The first angle is unclear and Christian Dvorak is in the way of the second, but in the image below you can see that Tuch brought the puck forward to the red line.

If he had brought it over the red line and fired it would be obvious, but he doesn’t, he pulls up a little, pivots, and shoots the puck forward. It’s not clear when the puck leave’s his stick, but all he needs to do is make contact with the center line with the puck on his stick and it's not clear that the puck didn't touch the center line.

But even though there is ambiguity there, I want to keep looking because of another section that was discussed after the game, Jakob Chychrun, and if the puck should have been blown dead when he won the foot race.

It's very clear that Chychrun was winning the race, but it doesn't end there. I feel that hybrid-icing isn't the best-understood rule in general, and the language that is used to describe it works 99% of the time but isn't the most precise.

Again per the official rules "[o]nce the Linesman determines the puck will cross the goal line, icing is completed upon the determination as to which player (attacking or defending) will first touch the puck. This decision by the Linesman will be made by no later than the instant the first player reaches the end zone face-off dots with the player's skate being the determining factor."

Chychrun clearly won the race to the dots, and he goes around the next expecting it to come out the other end. It doesn't though, the puck bounces off the sideboards, ricochets off the end boards, and ends up on the net where Jonathon Marchessault picks it up and passes it back.

When the defending player has reached to faceoff dots the linesman needs to decide who is going to reach the puck first. Could the linesman have known that the puck was going to bounce the way it did and that Chychrun would go to the other side of the net allowing Jonathon Marchessault to touch it first? For all we know, the linesman could be an excellent pool player and watched the angles and anticipated the puck ending up where it did. And if the goal of the rule is determining who will touch the puck first, does the fact that Marchessault actually touched it first play into this at all?

Ultimately, none of that actually matters. They had already called off icing immediately after the puck left Tuch's stick and the linesman was not put in a position to make that call. Neither Jakob Chychrun nor Clayton Keller, who doesn't stay with William Karlsson, should have thought there was going to be icing on this play.

NHL fans back and forth over judgment calls. As fans, we inherently understand that hockey is a very fast game, and officials can't be everywhere, and something clear as day on the video replay can be ambiguous on the ice and no game is ever going to be called perfectly.

But we also see complaints about off-sides reviews wiping out goals that some people think should stand. And icing involves the Linesman using their best judgment, "[f]or the purpose of interpretation of the rule, there are two judgments required for 'icing the puck'." (emphasis added)

There is no denying this was a controversial non-call. Nobody likes it when these things happen, and nobody really wants to win or lose on a controversial call or a judgment call. But in watching it back it is still ambiguous, and in this situation, I am fine with letting the call on the ice stand.