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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Great Night On The Road

During my time in uniformed service, I have been afforded many great, one-of-a-kind opportunities. One such opportunity was a couple of nights ago. I was on temporary duty in an NHL town with a home game scheduled and was actually tired enough that I was going to wimp out and miss the game. I know... I know...

Another Colonel with our group, however, had a dilemma. He needed a volunteer. And it had to be a Hockey fan. So I raised my hand.

I quickly found out I needed a second volunteer and grabbed another Colonel and off we went to the game where we had two free tickets, 2/3 up the lower bowl on the goal line. A good victory when its two of the teams OGA says are going to be Chasing Stanley at the conclusion of the regular season.

The best part came at the end of the 1st period when a gentlemen in an official, black, NHL blazer came down the steps and waived us over. After introducing himself to us, he took us up the media and officials' elevator to where he worked as a Video Replay Official. As we walked, I asked how he got that job. More than 1000 games refereed as an on ice official, an application to the NHL for the position, and a little luck in a scheduling conflict with another official and there you have it - a recipe for employment. That is my experience in life - hard work to earn your way, follow procedures, and get a lucky break, due in large measure to the first two circumstances.

Here is what we saw in the five-to-10 minutes we were there. (We excused ourselves with a bit more than three minutes to go until the second period began.) There were four gentlemen present, but, I believe, only two of them were the primary Replay Officials. They had a window down to the ice but did their work primarily sitting behind a bank of four HD TV screens, complete with corresponding TiVo's. Two of the screens were looking top-down on the nets so you could easily see if the puck crossed the goal line. We sometimes get to see that angle in replay on television.

The other two screens carried the home and away game feed which are sometimes necessary because of their different angles. As we were told, the over-net shots can tell if the puck crossed the goal line, but cannot tell you if, for instance, a high stick was used to tip in the shot. The home and away feeds often show that. There were also an additional two back-up screens over the bank of TiVo's and other equipment that passed the in-house feeds to Toronto.

In addition to the TiVo and television screen controls, they also had: the buzzer to alert the scoring judges that a goal was scored and missed by the on-ice officials before the next puck drops; the headset to talk to the referee at the scoring judge's window; the button to call the Toronto War Room; and of course, the TV and TiVo remote control system that would put the very best of man caves to shame.

As you might guess, the lines of defense for decisions about goals are: (1) the on ice official who signals that a goal was in; (2) if the goal is in dispute, then they go to the Video Replay Judges; (3) if Video Replay in the building cannot solve the problem, they punch the button for Toronto's look at their cameras; (4) and if Toronto cannot come to a conclusion, it comes full circle back to the on ice official's original call.

Two of the other staffers at On Goal Analysis knew that I was being afforded this opportunity. I promptly called them after the fact and told them I got to punch the button and wipe out a visiting goal. Don't let it color your opinion of us that they actually asked, "...Really?" (A guy's gotta live a little...)

What a great opportunity I am happy I could share with OGA readers!

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