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Big Murph Is Watching
MICHAEL FARBER
March 20, 2006
There's a video goal judge at each NHL game, but the final word on questionable scores comes from the league's nerve center in Toronto. Every night Mike Murphy and his crew become an all-seeing eye in the sky. Here's an inside look at how it works
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March 20, 2006

Big Murph Is Watching

There's a video goal judge at each NHL game, but the final word on questionable scores comes from the league's nerve center in Toronto. Every night Mike Murphy and his crew become an all-seeing eye in the sky. Here's an inside look at how it works

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This is a busy post-Olympic night, but mercifully it is a Thursday. For reasons unfathomable to the officials in this room, there seems to be a full moon every hockey Saturday night. "By 7:30 on a Saturday," Murphy says, "we might already have had to look at four goals." Tonight there will be 47 goals scored in the 10 games, not counting one in a shootout, but only three will require a second look in Toronto. One general manager, Atlanta's Don Waddell, will phone in to complain about a penalty called by referee Brad Watson that leads to Boston's winning power-play goal. ("Brad Watson may be the best ref we have," Murphy tells him.) Colin Campbell will phone two other G.M.'s, Bob Clarke of the Flyers and Glen Sather of the Rangers, after a fight breaks out in the last five minutes of the New York--Philly game. Through the miracle of video science, Campbell knows that Flyers winger Donald Brashear had spent the game stalking Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, looking for payback for a Kasparaitis hip-check that had injured the Flyers' Simon Gagn� at the Olympics. Campbell has already decided on a one-game suspension for Brashear and a $10,000 fine for his coach, Ken Hitchcock. (In the old days of player discipline, teams had to gather videotape of a heinous offense and send it to the league. Now Campbell can download it in the video room, send a copy to the players' association electronically and hold a hearing, if necessary, the next day.)

In the five hours and 47 minutes of hockey, the men will offer terse comments on Rene Rancourt's national anthem in Boston (superb), hockey writer Brian Biggane's sport jacket during a between-periods interview in Florida (too plaid), suspected dives by Florida's Olli Jokinen and Nashville's Martin Erat, the turning radius of new Flames defenseman Cale Hulse ("That's why I call him 'the aircraft carrier'"), Nickelback versus Garth Brooks and a breakaway by Minnesota's Marian Gaborik ("Who's in net for L.A.?" "No one"). Commissioner Gary Bettman, who calls almost nightly, telephones from his home, checking on the final disposition of the missing puck.

Murphy and his men, after some tense seconds, locate it. Referee Don Van Massenhoven ruled it a goal, but the video goal judge is phoning for the prescribed second opinion. After a few inconclusive replays, an overhead camera clearly shows the puck crossing the line as the net shakes on its pegs. "Everybody got a goal here?" Murphy asks. There are unanimous mutters of assent. Murphy says, "Good goal," into the phone and hangs up. It is 8:45. He watches the screen as Van Massenhoven, phone to ear, gets the word from the video goal judge. The veteran referee pivots and points to center ice, and 19,000 fans erupt. In Ottawa, this is drama. In Toronto, it's already old news.

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