By Jeremy Lanaway
The lights dim in GM Place and all eyes turn toward the new scoreclock radiating like an indoor sun above centre-ice. Music fills the air as the pre-game video appears on the system's four mammoth LED screens, beaming a high-speed montage highlighting various aspects of the city's current boom and the genesis of the clock itself. The arena erupts with emotion.
It's time to drop the puck on the Canucks-Predators game.
Orca Bay's multi-million dollar scoreclock has definitely lived up to the hype. Hanging high above the Canucks logo, with its four larger-than-life LED screens, four adjoining corner-boards, and top-and-bottom rings of pulsing lights, Daktronics' cutting-edge centre-hung video display system is a sight to behold - just ask the beheld crowd on Halloween night.
"It's fabulous," says Moti Bali, who travelled from White Rock to watch the Canucks host the Predators. "The first thing my son said was 'look at the scoreclock.' Actually, I've been watching the scoreboard more than the game."
It isn't just the fans who are impressed with Orca Bay's super-system, whose endless selection of animations, video clips, and graphics are displayed in 4.4 trillion colours, providing the best size-clarity ratio of any scoreclock in the NHL.
"We look up there and it's nice to see a clear screen," says Josh Green, speaking for his teammates. "The numbers are big and bright, so we can see the penalty times and the time of the game easily. We're very happy with it."
BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED
Like most hi-tech gadgets, the scoreclock didn't come fully assembled - in fact, it didn't even come partially assembled - and we're not talking about plugging an AC power-supply cable into the back of a DVD player. They say Rome wasn't built in a day. In this case, it was built in a week.
Following the removal of the old clock, which was put out to pasture on October 19th, the crew set to work on building the clock's frame, a stage that is usually performed inside Daktronics' factory south of the border. The team had seven days to do a job that normally takes three weeks to complete. Their deadline was Friday, October 27th - the day the Canucks were scheduled to host Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
"Because of the compressed timeline, we had parts showing up as we were building," says Jamie Levchuk, Manager of Game Entertainment and Events at Orca Bay Sports. "The frame showed up first, and then some of the boards showed up, so we were kind of piecemealing it all together."
How did the MacGyver-inspired installation turn out?
"It actually worked out well," says Levchuk. "There were some minor setbacks, you know, little glitches that went wrong, but overall the process went very smoothly."
The installation may seem smooth now that the scoreclock is hanging from the rafters of GM Place and glowing like a supernova, but at the time "smooth" would've been a relative term - the way that sandpaper is relatively smooth when compared to, say, a barnacle-covered rock.
The fact is that at any given point during the installation process, 10 to 25 workers from Orca Bay, Pattison Sign Group, and a number of independently contracted outfits, were scurrying around or climbing on, into, and out of the massive scoreclock. The shifts lasted for 12 to 16 hours during the first few days, and ultimately lengthened into all-nighters.
Due to the hectic schedule, it's no surprise that Murphy's Law presented itself regularly throughout the project. The first major incident occurred on Tuesday, October 24th, the first day of the "Big Push," when the scoreclock's top ProAdÂ® ring arrived - even though it was slated for installation on Thursday - and the parts that were needed ASAP didn't show up until Wednesday. To overcome the obstacle, the team had to get creative and reorganize the job order, enabling them to work around the gap.
The next major setback involved the modules that light the LED screens. The problem was that the team didn't have enough of them, and Texas Instruments didn't have any more in stock. Keith Grable, Daktronics' head technician, cleared the hurdle by removing modules from the edges of the screens - in effect, narrowing them - and using them to fill the holes.
More problems arose, but thanks to the ongoing ingenuity of the installers, the glitches were eventually sorted out, and by 2 p.m. on Friday, an hour after the Capitals had concluded their game-day skate, the installation team was finally ready to flip the switch for the first time.
And guess what - it actually worked.
A JOB WELL DONE
"It was an amazing job," says Al Hutchings, Director of Engineering at Orca Bay. "To get the old clock down in two days, and then to build the frame and get the biggest indoor screens ever installed on a clock - to get everything in so that the team could play on Friday night - it was amazing."
Lara Smith, who drove from Abbotsford to watch the Canucks face off against the Predators, appreciates the crew's hard work. "The scoreclock looks a million times better than the old one," she says, sitting at the edge of her seat in the upper bowl. "It makes the game way more exciting!"
And that's what it's all about, isn't it?