Friday, December 1, 2006

Take the NHL into the 21st century!


I'm writing this post as I'm watching the game. It's about halfway through the 3rd period and the refs have already been on the phone with the Toronto officials twice.

The first call was in regard to a very questionable goal. The puck ricocheted off of the post and back out onto the ice. The ref waved off the goal (because it wasn't) but the goal judge behind the net lit the lamp. The horn sounded, lights flashed and the spotlight went down onto the ice. Meanwhile, the puck was out on the ice being moved around by Calgary players. The Jackets, who didn't see the ref waving off the goal, thought that Calgary had scored. The flames seized this opportunity of Columbus confusion to actually put the puck in the back of the net. This "second" goal counted.

The review questioned whether or not the ref blew the whistle after the no-goal, there by stopping play. If he did, then neither goal counts. If he didn't, then the second goal does count. The ruling from the Toronto war room was that the second goal should indeed count.

I'm not trying to be a whiner here, but this call really irked me. I understand that the whistle is the official start/stop noise of the game, but the goal horn sounded, the flashing lights and audible chaos ensued and the crowd went nuts. What are the players supposed to do? If they weren't looking right at the ref at the time he waved his arms, there's no way they would have thought it wasn't a goal. The actual goal was scored several seconds after the horn had sounded. In addition, the NHL and other sports leagues have rules restricting crowd interference, use of profanity, amplified sound (organ, music) during play, and so forth. How could the lights and horns not be considered unfair crowd/arena interaction with the game? The officials should have halted play and waved the whole thing off.

Shortly afterward, the Jackets were crashed into their own net and the puck disappeared. Chances are that the puck did cross the line into the net, but the cluster of skaters in the crease made it unclear. The on-ice officials and those in Toronto decided this one wouldn't count.

With 3 Toronto war room calls in two games, this is getting out of hand. It's the 21st century- why are we relying on human eyes 10 feet behind the net to decide whether or not a goal is scored? Yeah, we've added replays, which helps, but it's not enough. The NFL also uses replays, but theirs are available by both officials and coach's challenge and are reviewed on-site instead of far away. Most importantly, they're easier to use to overturn a call than the NHL system.

The NHL needs to adopt a high-tech puck. It would be easy to embed a transmitter of some kind into a game puck that could aid in these situations. The underlying idea is very simple- when the puck enters a certain area, a goal has been scored. If the puck is not in that area, there is no goal.

This could be done a number of ways, and here are my suggestions:
  1. There could be a sensor in the back of the net that would detect the puck in relation to the goal line, using some sort of imaging sensor.
  2. An electro-magnetic sensor, similar to an airport metal detector could be put within the goalposts and could detect a puck moving between them.
  3. RF ID tag inside the puck. I don't know how accurate these are, but it may work.
  4. My favorite is a location trilateration system- think GPS but on a smaller scale. Using multiple positioning receivers and a transmitter inside the puck, the location of the puck could be determined anywhere in the arena to a matter of centimeters, maybe better. Simultaneously, this system could potentially be used to highlight the puck on the tv screen (i know this idea was experimented with in the 90's) or locate it when it is hidden behind the boards from the camera.
The game is over now. Jackets lose... the questionable goal was the decider.

Jackets lose 2-1
Same basement, different day.
Box Score

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