Dave Jackson spent nearly 30 years in stripes in the National Hockey League, only to move up to the broadcast booth as a Rules Analyst at ESPN. He’s been a great resource on the broadcasts, and on social media.
Recently, Jackson took to Twitter to give a peek behind the scenes of the NHL’s Situation Room, which handles the league’s goal reviews and Coach’s Challenges.
From Jackson (@ESPNRefNHL):
I feel the need to add some insight as to what goes on in the Situation Room. I worked a total of 34 years for the NHL, both on and off the ice. In that time, I spent a total of 10 minutes inside the room, taking a quick tour. Last month, because of my position at ESPN, I had the privilege of spending an entire evening in the room.
There were 13 games being played and every game had a dedicated “Logger” who reviewed and documented every zone entry, scoring chance, and infraction with the help of 3 high-definition monitors and super slo-mo.
There is also a leadership group of 3-5 people on any given night who are ex-NHL players and coaches. They have played or coached for a combined 24 different NHL franchises. Add to that, one retired NHL official who is a current supervisor and takes a turn swinging through the room on a monthly basis.
[Current NHL officiating supervisors include Paul Devorski, Shane Heyer, Mike Leggo, Bill McCreary, Brad Meier, Dan O’Halloran, Rob Shick, Don Van Massenhoven, and Brad Watson; no details on which are in the Situation Room rotation.]
Each of these officials (7 total) have all worked in excess of 1000 NHL games. I had no idea what a technological marvel this room is. Picture NASA but with nothing but hockey on the screens and rule books and memos piled everywhere.
When anything happens in any game that may require a review, it’s immediately, “All hands on deck.” It’s a rush seeing their team jump into action. The logger in question is immediately surrounded by the leadership group and the play in question is isolated and prepped to be reviewed and sent to in-arena tablets in the penalty box. Communication lines are opened to the arena and they’re ready for a coach’s challenge if needed. They are so efficient and professional, they usually have a definitive answer before the refs even get on the headset.
It pains me to read comments that “they flip a coin” or “don’t want a certain team or country to win.” I realize that these comments are based in frustration but they are ignorant, disingenuous and could not be further from the truth. The men in this room have hundreds of years and thousands of games of experience in the NHL. They are principled, honest and hard working. Their integrity is beyond reproach. I don’t agree with every decision they make but I never worry that any decision has an ounce of bias. They want to get every call right and serve the game to the best of their abilities. The have immense pride in the work that they do.
If anyone feels like taking a deep dive into their body of work, I encourage you to dig up video of calls not involving your favorite team. I think you’ll find that their calls are extremely consistent and fair. It’s a tough job without much praise and I for one have a ton of respect for all they do.
Next time the officials head up to a video review, keep in mind the years of experience that go into those reviews… and be sure to follow Dave at @ESPNRefNHL.
(Jackson’s comments have been lightly edited for clarity)