“Hey, Murph, look at that,” says former NHL player Kris King, alerting Mike Murphy, his fellow senior vice-president of NHL hockey operations, to the Boston Bruins-Washington Capitals game playing on his TV screen.
“I’m putting it up there so you know. Linesman makes a great call, [Bruins forward]Krejci’s pissed and fires it at the linesman.”
Murphy asks: “They give him a penalty?”
King points to a monitor on the far wall of the 11th-floor NHL war room. “Unsportsmanlike.”
In the replay, Krejci does indeed launch a puck at linesman Jean Morin. The video will be sent to NHL offices in New York within minutes for the perusal of player safety commissar Brendan Shanahan.
Murphy turns in his chair in the centre of the league’s video-review headquarters.
“If someone wanted to know what happens, we can send that clip in seconds to anyone who wants to know,” he says. “The commissioner [Gary Bettman] [deputy commissioner]Bill Daly, Brendan Shanahan, even the referee. It takes about 10 minutes, and we can send it to everyone who needs to know.”
On the next screen, the live feed of the Bruins-Capitals game plays, flanked by two dedicated live-time overhead cameras above the nets occupied by Boston goaltender Tim Thomas and Washington counterpart Tomas Vokoun. It’s the first of 10 games that day and, as such, gets maximum attention from the staff in the room.
The array of monitors on the wall (there are 14 separate screens) at 50 Bay Street resembles a casino sports book – without the slots. It is no coincidence: the league’s operations department consulted with the tech people who create casino sports-viewing rooms when it moved its operation down a floor to this new room at the start of the 2011-12 NHL season.
Each work station also contains a mini version of the video wall for the staffer assigned to watch a particular game. The goal of this sparkling new room is not only to get the close calls right but to reduce the time an in-game video review takes and to convey the decision via e-mail and NHL.com to the world wondering, “What happened?”
Because of the live overhead net cameras now available, lag time is being greatly reduced.
“We probably know within 20, 30 seconds what the call is going to be,” Murphy says. “By the time the referee gets to the headphones, we have a pretty good idea already. We’re quicker and more accurate and more consistent.”
When those decisions are made they’ll be posted online (later with video) within 90 seconds of the call being made. (Using Twitter.com as well is being debated.)
Murphy is asked about the notorious time-clock snafu in Los Angeles on Feb. 1 that allowed the Kings to score a late goal in a crucial decision over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“When the goal was scored, I went to my video-booth guy, and he said there was still time left on the clock,” he says. “We have the official time clock burned into the feed. But he didn’t go back further to see where it paused. None of us did.
“How did the clock pause? Was it user error, was it a flaw with clock? I’m not about to accuse anybody. I know the man who ran the clock, I trust the fact that he said he didn’t stop it. But I also understand that we’ve tested it before and never had an issue with it. Now, when we have a late-second goal, we go back to the last stoppage and chase it down from there.
“That changed our procedures.”
The league is also ensuring that all buildings and broadcasters have access to the official time clock. “When you’re talking about hundredths of a second, there can be a slight discrepancy in time among the TV people and us. In one game, the signals had three distinct and different times.”
So far, the afternoon has been quiet. The NHL staff are like firemen, however, on alert. So they cue up a contentious call from the night before in Pittsburgh, where referee Marc Joannette called a goal against the Florida Panthers that was soon overturned.
Murphy points to the monitor. “You can see that the way [Panthers goalie]Jose Theodore’s arm came down, the puck could never have been in the net. Joannette first seems to call no-goal and then seems to change his mind. We were pretty sure very quickly. The combination of all the new net cam and the overhead helped us make the call to overturn.”
On the video, Joannette can be seen announcing, “After review, it was determined that the puck did not completely cross the line” – followed by a cascade of boos from Pens fans.
“When Bob Errey’s doing the commentating [for the Penguins] anything in the blue is in the net,” Murphy says with a laugh. “But he admitted afterward that the NHL had made a real good call on that one.”
The hardest calls?
“High sticks,” Murphy says. “Because it’s almost impossible judging a three-dimensional play with two dimensions. Trying to find the puck, the stick and the crossbar. You can’t get it exactly where the stick contacts the puck. It’s hard to overrule the referees on those ones.”
How about kicking the puck?
“Kicking, we have more refined,” he says. “Now, it has to be a defined kicking motion. People used to talk about the skate staying on the ice, but you can still kick it in that way. We’ve permitted a lot more pucks off skates. A guy can turn his skate and it’s still good. It’s much more liberal in that way.”
And who gets the tie-breaking vote in case of a disagreement in the NHL war room?
“Whoever’s sitting here is the consensus guy,” Murphy says. “We’ve never had an argument about a play. … Not that we’d ever tell a reporter.”
Around the rinks with Eric Duhatschek
Goals for the Los Angeles Kings’ Mike Richards since Christmas, a span of 35 games. Richards received credit for a goal in Tuesday night’s win over the Detroit Red Wings, but replays showed it deflected in off a Detroit player. It was ultimately changed to Drew Doughty. Richards’s only goal in that span came Jan. 14 vs. Calgary. He has 14 goals this season.
Consecutive starts for Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, the longest streak in the league this season. Hiller is being used exclusively because backup Dan Ellis is out recovering from sports-hernia surgery and coach Bruce Boudreau has been reluctant to use backup Jeff Deslauriers.
Goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, the first player in the NHL to reach that mark this season and only the sixth player in NHL history to score 50 twice before his 23rd birthday. The others: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alex Ovechkin.
“I told Timmy after the first, if he could hold the fort, then I’d keep him in there. But at 5-0, what’s the point? We got Marty back in there for some more work and Timmy got some rest. That became the priority at that point.”
The Boston Bruins’ coach explains his goaltending shuffle – from Marty Turco to Tim Thomas back to Turco – in a 6-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stanley Cup defending champion Bruins are reeling with only 12 wins in their previous 29 games dating to late December.
“Why is it that all the GMs get to make all the rule changes and the players get little say?”
It doesn’t sound as if Los Angeles Kings centre Mike Richards has heard of the NHL’s competition committee, which vets any rule changes recommended by the GMs and includes five player representatives (Mike Cammalleri, Chris Campoli, David Backes, Ryan Miller and Chris Clark). Maybe he can volunteer the next time the committee has an opening.
How the Avs are succeeding
Funny how trades can work out in strange, unexpected ways. So many people assessing the San Jose Sharks’ moves at the trade deadline thought they’d done a good thing in acquiring a couple of hard-working wingers, Daniel Winnik and T.J. Gagliardi, from the Colorado Avalanche, even if it cost them Jamie McGinn (not to mention prospects Mike Connolly and Michael Sgarbossa). Well, this past week, the surging Coloradans moved past San Jose in the race for a Western Conference playoff spot, in large part because of how well McGinn has fit in with his new team. Playing about three minutes more a night than he did in San Jose, McGinn has scored seven goals in his first eight games in an Avalanche uniform, including the tying goal Wednesday with two seconds on the clock, giving them a shootout win. Colorado is merely 14-4-1 in 19 OT games this season, a big reason it is in the hunt at all. Winnik and Gagliardi, meanwhile, have combined for one assist in their new home. And Dominic Moore, the other deadline addition for the Sharks, has just two points in his first 10 games for San Jose.
What happened to Wings?
Pavel Datsyuk cannot return to the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup soon enough after the perennial contenders were blasted on back-to-back nights in southern California, losing to the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks by a combined score of 9-2. Without Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl, the Red Wings are a shell of the team that rattled off a record 23-game home win streak this year, having lost five of six heading into Saturday’s date with the San Jose Sharks. Lidstrom’s absence is most acutely felt. He is out with a bone bruise in the lower leg that’s in exactly the wrong place – just where he would tie his skates tight. Lidstrom has missed seven games in a row and counting, the longest consecutive stretch he’s spent on the sidelines in a 20-year, Hall-of-Fame career. And he’s getting anxious, too, apologetically noting the other night that sitting in the press box was not his idea of a good time. Right now, the Red Wings’ defence corps consists of Niklas Kronwall, Ian White, Brad Stuart, Kyle Quincey, Doug Janik and Brendan Smith, and they’re not getting it done. “Obviously, we’re not going anywhere with the way we’re playing right now,” Kronwall said. “But at the same time, we feel like we have a good group in here. We just have to stay positive and keep believing in ourselves. I think we all feel that we are a good hockey team and that when we do the things we want to do, when we play the way we want to, we’re a hell of a hockey team. That’s what our mindset has to be – everybody looking forward. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’re not going anywhere that way.”
Kurri recruits for Finland
Hall of Famer (and former Edmonton Oilers star) Jari Kurri is touring NHL cities again this spring, recruiting for Finland’s world championship team. It matters a little more this season because Finland is playing host to the tournament for the first time in nine years, and the last time it was there, the Finns lost in the championship to Sweden after blowing a big early lead. Kurri is careful not to identify the players he’ll want to recruit while they are still technically in the playoff race, but he will try hard to coax a couple of Ducks, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, to play as soon as Anaheim is officially eliminated. Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu, still out of the Wild lineup, will be a candidate as well. The world championship starts late this year, so technically, teams will be able to add players eliminated as late as the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Asked if he developed his management chops by watching Glen Sather operate, Kurri laughed and said: “I don’t have that kind of money to spend.” Kurri also believes the 41-year-old Selanne should return for one more season because he is skating as well now as he did a decade ago, and that, according to Kurri, is not how life is supposed to work. “It should be the other way around – the older you get, the slower you get.”