Friday, April 1, 2011

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Time to revisit Goal-Line Technology?

If the Calgary Flames don’t make the playoffs this year, and it’s not looking like they will at the moment, there’s a good chance that fans will be looking back on the events of Wednesday night and cursing the NHL.

During the second period of what was then a one-goal game, the Flames appeared to make it 2-2 when Tim Jackman and Matt Stajan crashed the Anaheim crease and looked to have pushed the puck into the net. However, an inconclusive replay kept them from claiming that goal and they went on to lose 4-2, a big blow for their playoff hopes. Had the goal counted, they’ll say, who knows what might have happened in the final period and a half!

For a team that just barely misses the playoffs, there will always be a ton of “what if” moments, but was this one preventable?

The problem during that review was that the puck appeared to be lying on the arm of Ducks goalie Ray Emery, who was sliding backwards into his own net…but it was impossible to tell if it was, in fact, the puck we were looking at, or if it was just the dark fabric of the Anaheim jersey. If you were at the game sitting next to Common Sense, it would tell you that the puck is probably over the line at some point during that goalmouth scramble, but unfortunately for the Flames you need more than just that. Since the goal was waved off on the ice, the term “inconclusive evidence” becomes the star witness at this trial and no goal is given.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for the Flames, but that’s the reality of the NHL at the moment. It doesn’t have to be though!

Is it time to revisit the idea of bringing in some sort of goal-line technology to help out in cases like this one? The term “goal-line technology” seems to scare people into thinking that the game will never be the same and machines will take over and the puck will start glowing and pretty soon it’ll be robots playing, and what if those robots turn on us one day?!?!

The truth is, it’s just the natural progression of how things are moving in the NHL and in pro sports in general. We’re talking about a league that has a camera in the net, cameras all over the building and a room full of people at a central location who are being paid to watch every angle picked up by those cameras and make a decision. All those cameras and we’re still getting “inconclusive evidence” fairly regularly. There’s something wrong with that!

Last July I thought I had the answer, and today I still think it’s something the league needs to at least look into.

Back then I blogged about a product made by German company Cairos Technology that uses a sensor in the puck and thin cables underneath the playing surface, which generate a low magnetic field. When the puck crosses the goal line, the sensor sends a message to a receiver, which sends a message to the referee’s watch, signaling a goal. This all happens in a split second!

The technology was originally developed for soccer, but Christian Holzer with the company assured me at the time that applying it to hockey would be no problem whatsoever.

So in the case of the Flames potentially game tying goal on Wednesday night, if it did end up fully crossing the line, the ref would have been given a beep on his watch and we would have been spared the long video review.

What’s stopping the NHL from taking this for a test run at the next Research and Development Camp, where they try out all kinds of weird potential changes to the game?

That would be a perfect opportunity to see if Cairos Technology can provide a viable alternative to “inconclusive evidence,” wouldn’t it?

What do you think – Should the NHL consider bringing in some type of goal-line technology?

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