ECHL studying use of instant replay League officials aren’t optimistic it will be adopted.
Two weeks ago, Kalamazoo Wings forward Justin Taylor cut to the side of the Fort Wayne Komets goal and lifted a backhand that deflected off the crossbar and then off the far post before flying away. The referee pointed toward the net to signal a goal.
Though replays showed the puck never crossed the goal line, and because replays are not used in the ECHL, the Komets had no option other than lining up at center ice for the ensuring faceoff.
That kind of a story upsets South Carolina Stingrays President Rob Concannon who sits in his North Charleston, S.C. office and runs down the list of sports leagues that use instant replay, “The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the AHL, Arena Football, tennis, volleyball, college football,” Concannon says, and continues a slew of college and junior hockey leagues.
But the biggest circuit missing is the ECHL.
“My argument has always been that we want to be considered the premier AA hockey league, but we don’t have instant replay,” Concannon said. “The bottom line is it’s time to get instant replay, but how do we do that?”
As chairman of the league’s rules committee, Concannon and ECHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Joe Ernst have been working for more than a year to study the possibility of the league adopting instant replay. They first presented a study at the ECHL’s summer meeting last year in Las Vegas, and again at the recent midseason meetings in Glens Falls, N.Y. Instant replay will again be on the agenda at this summer’s meetings, but neither Concannon or Ernst are optimistic replay will be accepted.
“The problem we have is some teams don’t want to spend $20,000-to-$25,000 on video replay,” Ernst said. “My personal opinion is that we’re not going to be able to do this. I don’t think there’s enough traction in the room of 27 teams we have. I don’t think we’re going to get it this summer, that’s just my thoughts, but I could be wrong. It will be the owners’ decisions. It’s their money. If they don’t want to do it, then we won’t do it.”
League officials have concluded that the Hawk-Eye system which the NHL uses would be best for the ECHL, and have encouraged teams to discuss details with the company. Kalamazoo, Cincinnati and Toledo have replay capabilities in place, but the league wants every team to utilize the same system.
Several teams say they are struggling financially and do not want to add the extra costs instant replay would entail. The league has already asked teams to upgrade their gamefeeds to high-definition cameras at a cost of $15,000-to-$20,000. Cost is also why the league has not implemented using two referees during the regular season like the NHL and AHL uses.
“It’s just not a priority for teams in our league,” Concannon said. “We’re talking the simplest thing, two cameras above the net, run it to a tablet in the scorers box and then let the referee check that for a goal. That’s it. If you ask any coach, they say the same thing, that it’s a joke that we don’t have it. They’d all vote for it.
“What happens if we get into a playoff situation where we potentially make the wrong decision on a goal? It’s baffling that we sit in a room and argue about this, yet we come out of the room and we have people say they don’t think we have value to it.”
There was a disputed goal in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals between Wheeling and South Carolina.
“I still don’t know if it went in,” Ernst said. “My gut says it probably was but it wasn’t allowed. We had another goal that went the other way in the same game because the goalie was in the net.”
Both Concannon and Ernst are getting frustrated with the lack of conviction from the owners.
“We’re talking about pucks crossing the goal line and we haven’t talked about whether this system can we look at high sticks, are we going to be able to look at hand passes, and kicked pucks?” Ernst said. “Just to see if a puck is over the line, I kind of think we’re wasting or money for only one thing.
“It makes it tough when you can see it on Twitter that a puck is in the net and one of our management people is at a game and they are powerless to do anything about it. That’s the tough part about it, but I’m a realist. I’d like to have it and hopefully we get it, but I’m not very optimistic it will happen. It just makes the league look bad when things happen.” <br>
<i> For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring. </i><br>
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