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HELENE ELLIOTT / ON THE NHL

Upon further review, NHL's replay system is good

In Toronto, staff members monitor games from around the league in a video room next door to the Air Canada Centre and make judgment calls much faster than before thanks to improved equipment.

December 19, 2011|Helene Elliott

From Toronto — The NHL's video review room in Toronto was quiet Monday afternoon, with a dozen TV screens showing infomercials and computer screens displaying overhead views of empty nets.

Three hours later the work stations would be occupied by half a dozen staff members responsible for reviewing plays in the six scheduled NHL games. Was the puck kicked into the net? Did the puck fully cross the line after a shot? Those judgments are made daily in this room, located next door to the Air Canada Centre and within earshot of the goal horn at the Maple Leafs' home rink.

Outsiders call it the War Room. The NHL calls it the Situation Room in a blog on its website.

"I call us the Quality Control Room," said Mike Murphy, the league's senior vice president of hockey operations and a constant presence there.

The equipment was upgraded this season with overhead camera angles from each rink. Staff members are assigned a game to monitor — on busy nights each might get an early game and a late West Coast game — and they have fiber-optic feeds from team telecasts to guide them. Each screen provides a view in four quadrants.

"We're so much faster than we were," Murphy said. "At one point it was so slow because we had to use VCRs or DVDs and go back and forth. ... It still does take time but I'd like to think we probably knock off reviews in a minute now, where before we were three minutes."

Having overhead angles helps considerably, and the equipment at Staples Center was recently upgraded to provide a better view.

"We always relied on the people in the arena to take care of this and advise us on this," Murphy said, "so if there's a wraparound play at the L.A. net, I'd have to call and say, 'What have you got in your overheads?' L.A.'s got some real good video goal judges but other teams' aren't as good as L.A.'s, so you're relying on a third party to make a decision for you on a very important part of the game."

Now, Murphy said, he can ask game monitor Brad Holland about that wraparound and Holland can examine multiple views. Murphy said he often polls other staff members monitoring games for their opinions.

"The trust is so strong between the whole group in here that we're able to maneuver through things, where in the past I'd have to stop the game and say, 'OK, what have we got here?' wait for TV to produce some replays, especially overheads," Murphy said.

"It's made us more accurate and it's really made us faster and more consistent."

To overturn the on-ice call, he said, would take "a clear view on the video of the opposite or different circumstances."

The next innovation will be installing in-net cameras, likely in time for the playoffs.

"It's really come a long way from where it was. Everything's in this room now. We can internalize just about all decisions from this room," Murphy said. "We are quicker, we are more accurate and we are consistent. And everybody wants more and more. Everybody wants 100%."

Andy Murray goes back to school

Andy Murray is no longer riding the NHL coaching merry-go-round, but that's OK with the former Kings coach.

Murray, who holds the club record with 215 victories, has been out of the NHL since he was dismissed by St. Louis during the 2009-10 season. He planned to spend this season in Switzerland, where his two sons and daughter are playing, but a call from Western Michigan University changed his mind.

Murray's eighth-ranked Broncos began the Christmas break at 9-4-5. He has seven Californians on his team, many of whom remember him from his Kings days.

"It is something that I wanted to do," he said by phone last week. "I've kind of coached at every other level: American League, NHL, Europe, internationally, Canadian junior, Canadian college, but I'd never coached U.S. college. I really do believe you only make this trip through life once and you've got to try it all."

Murray, 60, said he's too busy to miss the NHL.

"You're recruiting or watching games, you're preparing for the next opponent. There's a lot more paperwork at this level than what I was used to in the NHL," he said. "You've got academic meetings that I have to stay up on. I have to constantly be aware that I'm not breaking NCAA rules."

Although Murray is out of the NHL, he's still on the hockey radar screen. He was recently voted into the International Ice Hockey Federation's Hall of Fame, a tribute to his three world championships with Team Canada. Murray and former players Raimo Helminen, Pavel Bure, Phil Housley and Milan Novy will be inducted May 20 in Helsinki, Finland.

"That was pretty humbling," Murray said. "It's nice recognition for sure. It just means I've been around some great players and some other good coaches."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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