The bar never stops being raised when it comes to video replay in sports. The deeper the leagues delve into video review, the more fans demand they drill down even further.
We were ecstatic when Major League Baseball decided to use video review for home runs. Now, they’re dolling out chintzy outs for base runners who come off the bag on a pop-up slide, or reviewing Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound that hit Shin Soo Choo.
Did anyone see that coming?
In golf, fans call in from home to point out rules infractions, which sounds ridiculous – to everyone except for PGA commissioner Tim Finchem, it turns out.
“We like the fact that people call in,” Finchem has said. “We don’t want to turn those people off. We want to accept the information and deal with it. Cutting them off is not an option.”
In tennis, nobody will tell you that their Hawk-eye technology is perfect. It has, in fact, a 3.6 mm margin of error.
But they have all agreed to abide by the system. The game will be better served in the big picture, and even if an individual gets a rough call now and again, the odds say that player will benefit from one just as often down the road.
Of course, there are hundreds of singular points in a game of tennis. In the National Hockey League, they average only five goals per game.
So, yes, the Edmonton Oilers will no doubt be on the other end of one of these calls one day. But don’t tell an Oilers fan that today, less than 24 hours after Connor McDavid was denied what was likely a goal by the one, true hole in the NHL’s video replay system.
“We get a half dozen, maybe eight or 10 of these a year,” lamented Mike Murphy, the Sr. v.p. of hockey operations who presided over the call in Edmonton Sunday night, coming with 3.8 seconds left in a 3-2 game. “You know its under the glove or pad, you know (the glove or pad) is in the net. But you can’t find the puck. You can’t see it for sure.
“You rely on our video equipment, but you can’t see under the glove. You can’t see through the glove.”
It has never passed the smell test, this particular scenario, either in the stands or inside the NHL’s video review centre in Toronto. But there is a realization that, even though the technology has diminished the percentage of questionable goal calls to an infinitesimal number, that number will still come up now and again.
“I thought it could have gone in. Obviously, it’s pretty tough to see with his glove kind of covering up there,” McDavid said. “His glove comes sweeping past and kind of blocks the puck right away. It’s a little tough to see from any angle. I thought the ref’ got it right, obviously. Um, tough one.”
The Oilers, like the rest of hockey, are aware that Murphy and his men want nothing more than to get the call right. But here is where technology hasn’t caught up yet.
Those in-post cameras that were introduced during the playoffs last spring are being used in the War Room, but the angle has not been given to the TV trucks as planned. “We haven’t had great success with those at this point,” Murphy admits.
They will likely be better served by cross bar cameras that point downward, but even those wouldn’t have helped Sunday in Edmonton. The next step, clearly, will be made with in-puck computer chips, a technology that the NHL is working on from a player-tracking angle alongside every other professional sports league in North America.
The chip technology is about analytics data collection, tracking player speeds, shot speeds, etc. All the things that will make for a sexier TV broadcast, and at the same time, maybe reduce even further the amount of video replay calls that leave us shaking our tuques, the way many were on Sunday night.
“We’re not there yet,” Murphy said of the in-puck technology.
Of course, once we get that type of technology, hockey fans will stand down.
They wouldn’t ask for anything more at that point, would they?