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Tales from the War Room

by Mike G. Morreale /

The fat lady sings - 1:00 AM

Well, it's over. The Canucks scored a 6-3 victory over the Oilers without much trouble and difficulty here at NHL offices. They're beginning to close shop here at NHL offices and I suppose it's time I did as well.

All in all, three games decided by shootout, two by overtime. We had 10 one-goal games - unreal!

And then there was one -
12:45 AM

Incredible as it may sound, we're down to one game remaining - Vancouver and Edmonton. The game is assigned to Damian Echevarrieta, who handled a team-high three games.

"So Damian, what do you get for taking care of the most games?"

Said the 11-season NHL headquarters vet: "An extra slice of pizza." Hey, don't laugh, that's a big deal here at Toronto Headquarters. The only members remaining in the War Room are Mike Murphy, Echevarrieta and E.J. McGuire, who is really just doing research on his OHL games on Sunday.

I must say, I finally have a chance to watch a game for more than 10 consecutive minutes; it's been quite a night.

I'll hit you with the final score at the game's conclusion and call it a night.

Avalanche defeat Sabres in shootout -
11:45 PM

Yes. I'm still alive here - gotta love caffine.

Interesting point offered by Damian Echevarrieta just as the Avalanche were celebrating their shootout victory over the Sabres. Did you know that the biggest thing the boys here at Toronto headquarters look for during the shootout is the "double-tap" goal, which, of course, is illegal.

On top of that, three different individuals announce "goal" or "no goal" during each attempt in the shootout. Only when the third person announces "goal" or "no goal", does the next player begin his attempt.

That makes five games that entered overtime or shootout on Super Saturday!

Nash goal reversed - Minnesota wins -
10:45 PM

Hmmm. Tough one here at NHL headquarters - did it look like a goal to you fans at home?

The minute Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash tipped in the shot from the high slot, Chris Edwards notified Mike Murphy in the War Room and the debating began instantaneously. Edwards, Kris King, John Sedgewick and Colin Campbell were huddled together, reviewing the attempt at every angle.

Mike Murphy actually praised the group for doing the job they did and rightfully so. It was certainly a team effort and, perhaps, the toughest call of the night. There were 11.5 seconds left in the third at the time and the goal would have squared the contest at 2.

Here's the deal for those of you at home...

You're probably wondering why the referee on the ice pointed "Goal" following the actual tip by Nash and then announced "there was inconclusive evidence and the ruling has been reversed, no goal." What happened is this: The ruling on a high stick goal or non-goal is the only play on the ice where, if deemed inconclusive here in Toronto, actually goes back to the referees and linesmen officiating that particular game. In the Minnesota-Columbus contest, the one referee who initially ruled goal was overruled by the other three officials on the ice - thus his call was reversed and Nash' attempt was ruled "No Goal."

Campbell has his say
- 10:15 PM

Colin Campbell offered a few minutes a short while ago. I'll post most of his thoughts in a follow-up feature running tomorrow, but thought I'd share a few quotes regarding his assessment of the War Room - which Colin likes to call, "The Peace Room." So that's the fourth name I've heard.

"One of the most challenging parts is trying to focus in on every game because there are things happening every second of every game so you don't want to miss anything," said Campbell, while his eyes were glued to four different TV screens. "Just the play, calls, reviews. We catch all the reviews, but anything that leads to something we have to pay attention. There's just so much going on at one time and our people are watching and talking.

"It's a good thing to have all 30 teams playing on one night; it's exciting," Campbell said. "It's good for the hockey fan to know that all 30 teams are in action across North America tonight. I think that's the most intriguing aspect and the fact, not to mention we have 15 games tonight."

Controlled chaos - 9:50 PM

Well, for the first time tonight, Mike Murphy's head began to swivel.

While the shootout was taking place at Madison Square Garden between the Pens and Rangers, a fight broke out in Dallas between Washington's Donald Brashear and Krys Barch of the Stars. Then, the Islanders were awarded a penalty shot with less than five seconds remaining in the third period after Tim Gleason covered the puck and pushed it away from goalie Cam Ward right along the goal line. Ward, by the way, made an incredible 57 saves in a one-goal triumph.

The Isles Doug Weight was given the shot and Ward denied the attempt.

By the way, each penalty shot attempt during the Shootout in Manhattan was reviewed by Mike Murphy here in the Big House. Following each attempt, Murph would chime in, "Toronto video room has no goal for Pittsburgh." "Toronto video room has no goal for New York Rangers." And that would continue throughout.

When Sid the Kid missed on his attempt, the game was over and the Rangers earned the 'W'. Following the conclusion of each game, the referees or officials usually contact Mike Murphy to review their performance - Murph usually concludes the conversation with, "Thanks for calling, nice job," and then it's on to the next game on the big screen.

Big hit on Sutter -
9:15 PM

Well, the boys in the Video Room agreed that Doug Weight's open-ice check on Carolina rookie Brandon Sutter was clean. Sutter had his head down as he was gathering the puck at his own blue line and Weight of the Isles just lined him up. The son of Devils coach, Brent, was motionless for a few seconds before finally sitting up. He was assisted off the ice by two trainers.

First Penalty shot of the night -
9:00 PM

The Anaheim Ducks were awarded the first penalty shot of the night and Mr. Tim Campbell was on top of the situation. At first glance, it appeared Montreal defender Josh Gorges simply slapped the puck underneath Jaroslav Halak and did not put his hand over the puck to stuff it underneath his goalie. But, no matter, Anaheim's Corey Perry came in wide down his right wing, moved across the crease to his backhand and whiffed at his attempt.

Now we're cooking. Games going on all over the place. I'm continuing to speak to individuals while jumping in and out of the Video Room. Everything appears to be under control as even calls that really wouldn't be considered controversial, are closely watched and discussed.

Professionalism - can't beat it!

EJ McGuire still upset his game isn't in HD, but he is gushing over the fact he gets to watch super wing Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Mike Green! Who wouldn't!

Central Scouting in the mix -
8:30 PM

Just broke away from nice conversation with Central Scouting Service's EJ McGuire and Chris Edwards. They both are taking in some junior-hockey action Sunday night. Don't forget, there are no NHL games slated for Sunday, but the gentlemen of Central Scouting have no time to rest.

Funny - EJ made mention that because he and Chris rarely watch NHL games within the Video Room, they always get stuck with those contests that aren't in High Definition. "That's because we're rookies," McGuire said. Actually, both McGuire and Edwards were watching NHL video long before they began going full speed ahead in Central Scouting.

Bruins - Thrashers - 8:15 PM

Stephane Yelle's tip-in from the slot off a point blast by Shawn Thornton pulled Boston within 2-1 in their meeting with the Atlanta Thrashers. The goal was never sent over to Mission Control - was clearly in. Our man John Sedgewick confirmed the tally - "no doubt."

The puck appeared to skip off Yelle's leg, but it deflected off the stick and went through. The boys are patiently anticipating the 9 o'clock hour when 12 games will be going on at once.

It's been relatively quiet; the boys are paying strict attention to the screens and, while a joke is made every now and again, you can sense it's becoming a lot more serious.

Isles - Hurricanes on Long Island -
7:30 PM

Chad LaRose's wraparound attempt on Isles goalie Ricky DiPietro was a "No Goal!"

It was reviewed from every angle here at Mission Control and the boys did a splendid job. The referee on the scene in Nassau Coliseum mentioned to Mike Murphy that the "play had already been whistled dead when the puck finally crossed the line."

No Goal folks.

Carter ends Game 1 of 15 -
7:15 PM

The boys here at Mission Control were extremely impressed with Jeff Carter's goal, his sixth of the season. I even chimed in to make mention that Jeff Carter is certainly one of the League's hottest snipers right now. Everything he touches seems to light the lamp.

Certainly no question the goal was good and it officially ends the first game of a long day.

The opening game was certainly one of the best of the season, wouldn't you say? It had it all - battles, gloves off, goals, crossbars and smoke bombs. Are you kiddin' me?

Holy Smokes
- 6:50 PM

Gagne's shot hit the crossbar and into Marty's glove; NO GOAL!
The boys were on it almost immediately. The referee in Philly contacted Mike Murphy here at the Mission Control. While the boys were reviewing the monitors someone inside the arena threw a smoke bomb just in front of the Devils bench...getting clarification.

A King in the video room - 6:50 PM

I just popped into Kris King's office and chatted for a bit. I noticed a baby monitor sitting right beside his computer (he's looking at three monitors by the way). The baby monitor is used to contact Mike Murphy in the War Room - they have it all folks!!

"I'm not sure whether Murph's the baby or I am," quipped King. "But you know what, this is the first year we actually utilized this (separate) room. We used to have guys working at different stations near the Video Room, but it got crowded in there. (Kay Whitmore) and I work this room and we can work two or three games ourselves and deliver a message to Murph when needed. When a goal is under review, I'll let him know but he's probably seen it already anyway. I'll go in there and we'll do the review together but this allows us to talk about it together and discuss the play, making sure we get it right.

"If Ottawa is given four straight penalties, that could be a problem (against Toronto) and there's been a lot of animosity between Philly and Jersey, so that's another one you really have to keep your eye on."

And does the heavy amount of games taking place worry him later on tonight?

"Sometimes you expect it to be because of the numbers and games and generally those are the nights (knocking on his table) when things always smooth themselves out," King said. "We could have two games on a Sunday afternoon overlapping and only one on and one in intermission, and we could be involved in three reviews. You just never know in this game and while you would expect there to be a lot of things tonight, we could also cruise through the whole night with 30 teams in action and not have any issues. That's what we're hoping for."

We'll see come about 9:30 pm (ET)!

Colin Campbell in the house
6:30 PM
Colin Campbell is in the house, in front of one of the two big HD sets at the front of the War Room. There are also 11 small 15" monitors at the other side of the office. Kris King and Kay Whitmore are in a separate room, preparing to view their games. Whitmore will be handling the Carolina/Islanders and Florida/St. Louis contests and King is on the Ottawa/Toronto tilt, which is actually right next door at the Air Canada Center.

Damian Echevarrieta was handling the earlier Devils/Flyers contest and will also take care of the Pittsburgh/Rangers and Edmonton/Vancouver tilts. Tim Campbell is on Anaheim/Montreal and Calgary/Phoenix; Mark Barbetta is on San Jose/Tampa Bay; EJ McGuire has Washington/Dallas; Pat Murphy has Detroit/Chicago; John Sedgewick will be taking in the Buffalo/Colorado contest; Chris Edwards will handle Columbus/Minnesota.

Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy will oversee the whole operation. Murphy, actually, is on the phone constantly. Getting updates from each venue.

The Flyers/Devils game is 2-2 late in the third and even the crew here is gearing up for a fantastic finish.

Flyers Knuble jams it home 5:15 PM
So Mike Knuble scored the opening goal in the Flyers - Devils contest off a jam-in in the crease. Goal was totally legal and reviewed here in Toronto - they crew confirmed. Mike Murphy and Colin Campbell are in the house, as are Kris King, Patrick Murphy, E.J. McGuire and Kay Whitmore.

Damian Echevarrieta, whose been a wealth of information in the early stages of the evening, informed me that the Wachovia Center is the only facility where the camera above the goal actually challenges you depth perception since the actually crossbar is behind the actually goal line. So, any shots entering the net that are high, must be looked at very carefully - you really can't just judge it simply by crossing the goal line. In all 29 other venues around North America, the video camera above the cage has the actual crossbar even or in front of the goal line.

The first-period fight between Mike Rupp of the Devils and Riley Cote of the Flyers really got the boys going in the Video Room. I asked Damian Echevarrieta if they actually review the fights that take place. He told me that unless "their pulling hair or gauging" - Ouch!

Lining it up in Boston 4:45 PM

Well, there seems to be a problem in Boston, where the Bruins are scheduled to play the Atlanta Thrashers at 7 p.m. (ET). Damian Echevarrieta explains:

"The guys that paint the lines on the ice, painted the face off circles four feet too close to the blue line and nobody noticed it until it was too late and now we can't do it for tonight's game so we have to decide how to rectify that problem," Damian Echevarrieta said. "There's been a couple of scenarios set up but I think the one we'll go with is that halfway through the third period, teams will switch ends so everybody has the same amount of time with faceoffs that are too far away.

"I recommended that since our linsemen are smart enough to know approximately four feet, they can move the face off down further toward the goal," he added. "People are worried about the integrity of the face off. The reason we changed the face off rule two years ago was to have all the faceoffs on the dots and make sure the face off stays controlled. So they don't want to have a face off on a non-dot. The question is, however, is if we got to  OT, do we switch again halfway through overtime."

Dropping the puck in Philly 4:24 PM

Following a brief tour provided by Kirt Berry, the archivist at NHL offices, Damian Echevarrieta and John Sedgewick explained some of the rules of the Video Room and the only difference between Super Saturday and any other routine day will be the number of people working within the actual war room. The men over in Philly just checked in before announcing, ''Let's Play Hockey.''

Mark Punga, a camerman from Hockey Night in Canada, just zoomed by and is starting to take video of the scene. There are still just two members of the staff inside the Video Room - Damian and John.

"This is a rare occurrence on a Saturday night where all 30 teams are playing so the NHL has extended a special privilege to let us come out of here with a live shot in our pregame show between between 6:30 - 7 pm for HNIC. Maybe a second shot between 7 and 7:15 once the pucks are dropped just to see this room at its fullest potential," Punga said. "Not only do we want to get shots of Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy, but all the tech staff because this is a real behind the scenes peek at NHL."

Calm before the storm  3:45 PM

Welcome aboard everyone - Are you ready for some hockey!

I sure am and I'm here at NHL headquarters in Toronto to prove it. First and foremost, a special thanks to the entire crew here at 40 Bay Street in downtown Toronto for welcoming us and opening their doors as we set out to provide our readers up to the minute details during the busiest day of the NHL season. On a personal note, I'd like to thank Julie Young and Kirt Berry for their hospitality! My gosh, 30 teams locked and loaded. I'm prepared for the nine-hour journey that begins in 15 minutes at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia and concludes with games in Vancouver and Phoenix. I'm looking forward to providing you with all the hits and potential misses (none we all hope) across 15 cities.

Right now, it feels like I'm at the local sports bar; television monitors all over and grown men anticipating the inevitable.

My goal is to update you as quickly as possible when events begin to stir. I'm going to have some fun with this to hold your interest, but also offer the seriousness of the entire operation at the appropriate times. I'll have to be respectful of the crew here since they are doing their job and a very important one at that - we're all thankful!

Speaking of that crew, here's what I see assembled in the "Video Room."

Colin Campbell - Senior Executive VP of Hockey Operations
Mike Murphy - Senior VP of Hockey Operations
Tim Campbell - Coordinator, Video Hockey Operations
Kris King - Senior Director, Hockey Operations
Kay Whitmore - Manager, Goaltender Equipment Hockey Operations
John Sedgewick - Video Room Detail, Hockey Operations
Mark Barbetta  - PT/Seasonal Video Coordinator Hockey Operations 
Damian Echevarrieta - Senior Director of Video, Hockey Operations
Patrick Murphy - Mike Murphy's son, offering additional help and expertise
EJ McGuire - Director, Hockey Operations
Chris Edwards - Scout, Hockey Operations
Mike G. Morreale - (Oh yeah!); War Room dramatist

Keep checking back! I hope to pubish every 15 minutes or so, particularly during the 9 o'clock (ET) hour when there may be as many as 11 of the 15 contests going on at once.

Hey, maybe they'll ask me to help - in the famous words of one Frederico "Fredo" Corleone (played by John Cazale in The Godfather), "I'm smaaat!"

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