Video replay puts NHL years ahead of FIFA

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:59 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG - This is one of the things the NHL got right.

This is one of the things the NHL is years and years ahead of FIFA, an organization that supposedly is the model by which all other sporting bodies are compared.

After three weeks here at the World Cup, it's very clear that soccer's governing entity, an aloof bunch if ever there was one, is, in fact, plagued by loopholes and warts at South Africa 2010.

And there is no better example of that than all the hub bub going on concerning video replay in soccer. The NHL is state of the art in this regard. Every night there is NHL hockey, league VPs Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy and the crew are in the war room in Toronto monitoring each game on the schedule, making sure video replay is used for any questionable or controversial goals.

Are you listening, Sepp Blatter?

To be fair, the embattled FIFA prez did say this week that the implementation of goal-line technology will be discussed this month during business meetings in Wales. It obviously is a pressing issue, especially after the goal scored by England's Frank Lampard on Sunday was not credited in a 4-1 loss to Germany.

Campbell, one of the driving forces in spearheading the efforts to bring and modify video review to the NHL, understands, at least in theory, the obstacles FIFA might face as it pursues as similar system. If FIFA decides to pursue a similar system, that is.

"Understanding the politics in advancing rules with technology in our game has its challenges," Campbell wrote in an email from Toronto.

"I'm am sure for something as big as FIFA, it would be a monumental task in passing new rules. Change is always difficult even though something may be 'broken.' And it became 'broken' because technology is advancing so quickly."

According to Campbell, the initial concept of video review for the NHL "was the culmination of several things." Topping the list was the initial "vision" of having a war room-type situation one day.

"When I was playing in Detroit near the end of my career, I used to come home to Tillsonburg. We would play ball hockey a couple of nights a week to keep in shape, then go to a friend's appliance store to watch playoffs afterward.

"He had one of those back rooms where all the TVs were displayed. He also had an old fashion big satellite dish we could get the 'back hauls' on. So, instead of getting the one CBC game, we could get them all. This was before the days of ESPN, TSN and CBC doubleheaders.

"From that, a vision was born of a 'control room.'"

Keep in mind that this was back in the early 1980s, more than two decades ago.

"After the old 'foot-in-the-crease' rule and subsequent inconsistent calls from 30 video booths around the league, through the blessings of the GMs we were able to consolidate our calls from Toronto, quickly discuss the merits of each call -- consistency, various other factors, etc. -- and rule on each," Campbell wrote.

"The beauty here is, even though technical advancements with HD, multitudes of cameras and super slo-mo have made the live officiating calls so much more difficult to defend as NO one sees it in that light -- only the call they saw in HD super-slo, best angle -- that technical advancement have allowed us to communicate with the refs and watch those replays as we speak. We are able to call the video booth immediately from Toronto and stop a game in a heartbeat in Florida, Dallas or Vancouver."

Campbell said the NHL is examining ways to make its system even better.

"Now we are looking at bringing in our own feeds and attempting to put aside our dependence on only the networks feeds. However, while the managers have been tempted at times to rely more on replay (things like offsides and four-minutes high sticks where it has been discovered it was a teammates stick that did the damage), they still want to keep the human element in the game.

"So far, I think the balance the NHL has achieved works well."

We repeat: Are you listening, Sepp Blatter?

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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