TORONTO — So there I was, smack dab in the middle of the infamous "War Room" at NHL headquarters in Toronto on the busiest day of season — 15 games, 30 teams, 60 on-ice officials, more than 225,000 hockey fans watching live throughout various arenas in 15 cities and millions more perched in front of their television sets.
What kind of contribution could an NHL.com staff writer possibly provide within this hectic environment? I could remain content in my assigned work space, glued to my laptop and just provide our NHL.com readers the inside scoop. Or I could also mosey on over to Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy and offer my assistance.
After all, there are more hockey games being played Saturday than there are hockey operations personnel here on the 11th floor at NHL offices located at 50 Bay Street. Heck, I'm a college graduate and grew up watching the game as a teenager. I even played club hockey in college. So why not?
"Mike, what are the chances I can make an official call on a video review at some point," I asked. "About the same chance I have of writing your article at the end of the night," responded Murphy.
When I informed Central Scouting Service's E.J. McGuire what Murphy had said, he shook his head and laughed.
"That's well done by Murph," said McGuire, who was assigned to the Washington Capitals-Dallas Stars contest. "He has the experience where after reviewing hundreds of calls, he knows the standard to a tee. It's not always 'was it in or wasn't it in,' but was it kicked and was a foot moving.
"He's automatically going over files within his head; what happened last week and how was it different or similar to this situation. He's the one who makes the final call so after getting input from everyone, it's amazing how he and Colin (Campbell) can process all of that and get it together."
I have to admit, McGuire is absolutely right. I have a new-found respect for the men of the "War Room" or, as Campbell likes to call it, "The Peace Room."
"I just think this is an information center, but it's referred to as 'The War Room' because things happen," Campbell said. "We're in a control center and in a position to help finalize things in a hurry. Whether it's a small issue, like there was in Boston (with the improperly painted lines) or the smoke bomb going off in Philadelphia, we can get all the parties together and make the proper call. If there's a problem, we're on it and we can fix it.
"We have a communication system that's second to none, able to talk the video room and the men at ice level. Through preparation, hard work and knowledge, we try and tie everything together to make sure the games are the best they can be without any glitches."
Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Kris King, who retired as a player in 2001 following a 14-season career, is grateful to remain involved in the game. He finished with 66 goals and 85 assists in 849 NHL games for Detroit, Winnipeg-Phoenix, Toronto, Chicago and the New York Rangers. King, who was assigned to the Ottawa-Toronto contest Saturday, had an interesting viewpoint regarding his current position with the League.
"I kind of wish that when I played, I was able to look at the game they way I do now because I appreciate the game so much more than when I was on the ice," King said. "Working here has given me a better understanding of why things are actually called the way they're called. As a player, you're sometimes so focused on staying healthy, getting to the rink on time and staying in the lineup that you don't appreciate everything that goes on behind the scenes.
"Being in this job for six years now, I understand how much hard work goes into getting the games ready. I think it helps having played the game since you understand what the players are thinking, but it takes you a little while to understand what the referees are thinking.
"But, really, when you're watching as many games as we do and are able to slow things down and speed them up and look at everything, you really appreciate how good the officials really are," King said.
It was pretty neat to break a few of the stories as they were actually happening with the help of the crew here, including the change made at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston with the teams switching ends at the first stoppage of play after the 10-minute mark of the third period. I won't forget the official ruling at Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, where Rick Nash's apparent goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets was waved off because of a high stick with 11.5 seconds remaining in regulation. It was inconclusive evidence in Toronto that eventually led to that decision.
"We thought the games were terrific," Murphy said. "They really kept fans in their seats the whole night and got the fans out of their seats because they were so exciting. That's the kind of hockey we want played. It was fair hockey and it was entertaining."