If the NFL scores with a centralized video-review operation starting next season, give an assist to the NHL.
I’ve learned that an NFL officiating representative has been in communication with the NHL for about a month, and spent the evening of Saturday, Nov. 30 in the NHL’s “Situation Room” in Toronto — to see first-hand how the hockey league conducts video reviews from myriad, concurrent games using cutting-edge, real-time technology.
On Wednesday NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said his league’s Competition Committee is studying the viability of perhaps switching to a system of reviewing video from a central location.
As it is now, a replay official in the press box at each NFL game assists the on-field game referee, who after watching replays himself from a video tent on the sideline ultimately decides whether to uphold or overturn the call on the field.
“Consistency is important, and by bringing it into the league office on Sundays and actually having one person making that decision, you can make an argument for consistency,” Goodell said at the league’s special meeting in Irving, Texas.
“It is something we discussed with ownership (Wednesday) and the committee will come back with a report, and we will possibly make an adjustment from there.”
Goodell was asked specifically if the NFL has in mind a centralized video-review system based on the NHL’s.
“No, we’ve studied this and thought about this for a long time. This isn’t a new idea. This is something we’ve evaluated. We just think technology may be in place where this might be a good move for us.”
That technology is indeed in place.
It’s called “real-time” cyber-optic technology and it delivers images practically instantaneously, and much faster than satellite.
The NHL implemented it two seasons ago.
In a telephone interview on Thursday the NHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations, Mike Murphy, raved about that technology, and said representatives not only from the NFL but the NBA and even the Australian rugby league have dropped by in recent weeks to see it in action.
Jay Reid, who works in the NFL’s officiating department, visited the NHL’s “Situation Room” — located on the 10th floor of the Air Canada Centre office building — on Nov. 30, a Saturday night crammed with 10 games.
“He came in and watched us — and we’ve been communicating back and forth via email probably for about a month, about different things we do,” Murphy said.
“Jay came in and actually sat with us for probably three hours and watched how the whole room functions — how we operated at individual stations, how we operated in real time. And he saw how we do it. He asked people questions.”
The NHL’s centralized video-review system has evolved over the past decade. In a nutshell, it works like this.
First, each game still has an on-site video goal judge (and technician) who can stop the game to order a review. That judge liaises with the NHL’s Situation Room, where one individual per game monitors the action, all overseen by “somebody on what we call The Bridge,” Murphy said.
Reviews are limited to time-clock corrections and goals (whether the puck crossed completely over the line, was scored by a high stick, was kicked in, went in with the net unmoored, or was deflected in by an official). The Situation Room makes the final call.
“All three of us can be involved in initiating a video review: Toronto, the video judge or the referee,” Murphy said. “It is a little redundant, but this is the way we’ve grown.
“And we’re still protected against a situation where if our central location goes down for whatever reason — if we have a storm here and lose power, or our satellites fail us — we still have somebody at the arena who knows how we call the game, and the consistency with which we expect to call the game.”
Murphy said centralized video reviews have been a success.
“Oh, there’s no question. It has brought consistency. We do 1,230 games. The same group of people work here every night. They make the same decisions night in and night out. We like to think we’ve brought more accuracy to it, which I think we have, because our technology has improved so much.
“On a given night, we’ll see six, seven, eight, nine reviews. We’ll have four or five formal reviews — and we’ve actually been able to reduce our reviews because our real-time feeds tell us things immediately … Where in the past we relied on satellites, we had to wait for the stoppage of play, stop the play, wait for the TV people and production people to come up with the replays to make the decision. So our new real-time technology has been outstanding in speeding up our game and having fewer reviews.”
New technology includes the addition to every NHL arena last season of HD cameras high above each goal line, and HD in-net cameras. These are NHL-operated cameras, whose images are provided to broadcasters.
“We are inundated now with good video, and accurate video,” Murphy said. “For instance, the other night we had a puck that went in the net in Dallas. Nobody could see it. No (TV) camera had it. But our in-net, NHL-directed camera clearly showed the puck over the goal line.
“We’re not perfect. There is some subjectivity to it. But the same group of guys who are going to call a high-stick goal tonight are going to call it that way tomorrow night, too.”
Consistency. Exactly what the NFL wants. And needs.
- – - – -
CFL already has centralized video-review system
The CFL moved to what it calls a “Command Centre” to handle in-game video reviews in 2006.
As no CFL games overlap, only one of two designated video-replay officials works at any given time, except during the Grey Cup, when both are on duty.
When a coach challenges a play, the game referee heads to the sideline, and through a headset speaks directly to the replay official at the Command Centre. The replay official sees only the same replays that TV viewers do, but he can manipulate them — such as freeze-framing, zooming, speed-ups and slow-downs.