Coaches Challenge Strikes Again! What is “Control”?


Tuesday night,  a Washington Capitals goal was disallowed after Columbus coach John Tortorella used his coaches challenge to argue that the zone entry the Capitals had was off-side. A while back, I argued that this rule needs to change because something that happens much earlier in a play should not affect a goal outcome. 17 seconds after TJ Oshie crossed the blue line is when the goal was scored. Coincidence? I think not. 

The main argument against Oshie’s zone entry is “lack of control”. But what does that even mean? One way to figure this out is to look at what the NFL designates as a reception or catch. The NFL defines a catch as “(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and (b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and (c) maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps (see 3-2-7-Item 2). Note: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.” And remember, this rule was changed because of a Dez Bryant catch. Hell, the rule bears his name it was so controversial. And they still don’t define what “control” is!

So what does this mean for hockey? We all think we know what control looks like: The player has the puck on their stick, their eyes are either on the puck or looking up to a target, and the puck is within a certain distance of the puck carrier. But in Oshie’s case, that’s a bit unclear. He has control before going over the blue line, but as it happens, the puck jumps over his stick and he tries to regain possession. By the time he’s over the blue line he has control of the puck, and 17 seconds later it’s in the back of the net.

What are your thoughts on “control”? By digging too deep are we confusing ourselves, like the NFL? Or are we stating the obvious, and would this eliminate annoying coaches challenges? Either way, the Caps lost the game, and luckily, they quickly shifted their focus to Wednesday night’s bout with the Penguins.

By Julia Karron

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3 Responses to Coaches Challenge Strikes Again! What is “Control”?

  1. Jerry Broady says:

    That was the correct call as he crossed the line he still was unable to gain control of the puck because the other teams stick and his stick collided so therefore he had no control of the puck crossing the blue line. I am a die-hard Cubs fan he spent my whole life complaining that the officials never treated us fairly but in this instance they got this call correct

    • Julia Karron says:

      Yeah this one is obvious. I think what I am more concerned about is that this line is going to blur and we’ll get the NFL “catch” scenario for zone entries. Think of every coaches challenge for offside that then becomes about “control” into the zone. That’s going to be a problem. Sorry if that wasn’t super clear in the article! Means I have to work harder at explaining it.

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