Friday, August 24, 2007

Goal Judges

...being evicted.
When the NHL instituted video replay in the 1991-92 season, the idea was to help the referees determine whether a goal had been scored.

Few probably considered that it might make goal judges all but obsolete. Yet improvements in technology have achieved just that.

This season, all goal judges - who used to sit directly behind the goals - will be moved to the press box or similar locations depending on arena configurations.

The Flyers, like many clubs, are about to capitalize financially on the relocation by converting the goal judges' boxes into luxury seating.
Another tradition bites the dust.

Cleaning up the red-light district
Some clubs may want to keep the goal judges positioned where they've always been, but there won't be many, not with money to be made. This brings up the question of why even bother to have goal judges when it's obvious they've become as outdated as elevator operators.

Purists argue goal judges are a part of hockey history. They're a link to a time when the players wore tube skates and carried wooden sticks, and the ice and boards were clear without a hint of advertising.

But the advent of video replay devalued the goal judge, rendered him next to meaningless. He used to have a telephone in his little glass box, a hotline so his bosses could call and ask, "Are you sure that was in?" One NHL goal judge admitted last season he never gets calls any more.

"Not even a wrong number?" he was asked.

"It's like I'm not even there," he said.

It's to the point now where the referees don't even bother with the goal judge. They don't talk to him. He's simply another face in the crowd, only this season he'll be up in the press box or dispatched to some other forlorn spot far from the action he once took in with all the seriousness of an air-traffic controller.

Will it matter if he can't see the puck or makes a bad call? Not any more. His place in the game is fading away. The bigger question is the one you'll hear more and more outside NHL arenas this coming winter: "Who's got goal-judge seats for sale? Anybody got goal-judge seats?"

Like cabooses at the ends of trains, goal judge boxes at the ends of rinks will soon be but a memory of a distant time.


vakfan said...

I remember when I was 12years old and still living in Austria, a goal judge showed us his "cage" in a period brake. Elder man, around 60, really proud of what he is doing there...

br. t. said...

Yeah, I have a few memories myself of goal judges I've met over the years. Particularly one in Denver who worked the old Colorado Rocky games before they moved to NJ. Nice guy, also real proud and serious about his job.