IL Indoor Note: Former NLLer, Boston Blazers GM & Head Coach, and current Team USA Head Coach Tom Ryan will be blogging with IL Indoor during the 2011 NLL season.
We are now in the third year of instant replay in the National Lacrosse League. Over the course of that time we have seen changes in the process and procedures. Following the 2009 season coaches were forced to throw the challenge flag within 10 seconds as to avoid the home field advantage of being able to watch the replay on the jumbotron before making their decision. The league gave coaches the flexibility of throwing flags at any point in the game and were no longer restricted to one per half. If a team gets both of their challenges correct they get a third.
2010 saw some replay controversy and it seemed like the Boston Blazers were at the center of it. On January 15th Boston played in TO, a game that was aired live on TSN. The Rock were up 4-3 in the third when a power play shot was flagged by Troy Cordingley. The referees on the field had no goal. During the replay the Head Ref saw a white flash as Anthony Cosmo reached back into the goal to make sure the ball was not trickling in. An off field “official” (i.e. Rock employee) yelled “There it is!”, which seemed to be enough to overturn the call on the field and a goal was awarded to Toronto making the score 5-3. The white blur on the replay turned out to be a finger of Coz’s glove and upon playing the clip further one could see the ball drop out of his left leg pad well outside the goal. The Blazers lost this game in OT. The Crew Chief was fined for incorrectly awarding a goal.
Fast forward to February 20th and Boston at Orlando. The Blazers scored 2 goals within the final 30 seconds including one as time expired to tie the game at 11. In overtime Dan Dawson scored a goal that was overturned upon review. Despite the fact that the head referee had a perfect view of the play when it happened, he deduced by the two less than perfect replay angles that Dan had stepped into the crease and so we continued on in what became the longest game in league history. The ref in question was fined for overturning this goal without the necessary visual evidence. The Blazers won this game.
As a result of these and other incidents, the league stressed the importance of irrefutable visual evidence in overturning a call. As per the 2011 NLL Rulebook, “The Crew Chief shall use only CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE to overturn the original call. Conclusive evidence shall be deemed as, ‘putting an end to debate or question by reason of inability to be refuted, definitive.’ This shall be visual evidence and not rely on any auditory horn mechanism.” Without said evidence the head ref is instructed to deem the play inconclusive and move on.
Which leads us to opening weekend of the 2011 Season. I was in Philly watching the Blazers and Wings game which saw a couple close calls that were flagged and reviewed. The most notable was a power play goal in the 1st Quarter by Alex Turner of the Wings. Turner’s shot came from the left crease and could be seen outside the net as Assistant Referee Steve Adamick signaled a goal. Crew chief Matt Robinson took his time on this one as it was a peculiar play. The replay clearly showed the net move and the ball pop up outside the goal on the back of the net.
Robinson did not overturn this “goal” because although the ball was obviously on the outside of the goal he could not see exactly how it got there. The two likely possibilities are that the ball never went in or that there was a hole in the net. Robinson was therefore correct in not overturning the goal. Although it did not appear to be a goal he could not see exactly how the ball ended up on the back of the net from the two angles he was given.
Following the Blazers at Mammoth game on April 16th, 2010 League Commissioner George Daniel mandated that the Replay Official take his time and view all possible replays before making his decision. This is the now infamous game that saw a no goal call reversed and then later reversed again. There was some question as to what replays were shown and what cameras were available to the Crew Chief in the replay booth. Safeguards are now in place to prevent similar issues from arising in the future. Cameras available for replay are noted prior to the game and the official is mandated to watch all angles before making his decision.
So what we are likely to see in 2011 is less goals overturned due to the enforcement of the “conclusive evidence clause.” The reality is that the replay angles vary from barn to barn and that the replay technology is dependent on those cameras. Angles good for in-game entertainment don’t necessarily translate into good replay feeds. As a coach it is prudent to be aware of the camera options when deciding whether to throw the flag or not. If a replay is deemed inconclusive you lose a timeout or receive a minor penalty in the case no timeouts remain. Everett’s replay is known as the worst because of the limited technology and camera options at the Comcast Arena. The other more unpleasant side effect of the new guidelines is that replay will likely take longer than in past years.
The replays in Philly averaged 3-4 minutes. In light of the fines doled out for getting it wrong you can’t blame a ref for taking his time. At least one replay was followed by a media timeout which together completely killed the mood in the Wells Fargo Center. I would suggest doubling up on replay review and media timeouts whenever possible. NLL televised games are currently limited to TSN. For those of us south of the border the hope is that games will be televised in the US sometime soon. Many speculate that one of the requirements will be a two hour game. This is just not possible with the current replay parameters. The replay system in the NLL is not perfect but the bottom line is that coaches and fans alike want to see the right call made. Adjustments to the replay procedures in 2011 should get us closer to that.A nine-year NLL veteran and former GM and head coach of the Boston Blazers, Ryan also coached Team USA at the '07 WILC and will do so again in 2011 in Prague. To purchase Ryan's Stir It Up DVD click here.
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