Tuesday, April 26, 2016


-Things You Might Not Have Seen (on TV in game 7 of the Blues-Blackhawks series. And almost 20% of the entire Chicago and St. Louis markets were watching last night's game. Record-setting numbers.)

Blues win 3-2 on Troy Brouwer's third-period goal and move on to meet Dallas in the second round. As a side note, I have done the PA announcing for over 1300 Blues games, and only a few stick out in my memory. (Of course my memory isn't what it used to be). But, last night's win, and the amazing, electric atmosphere at Scottrade Center, especially late in the third period, will stick with me for as long as I'm still around. Here's what you might not have seen on TV last night.

  • Charles Glenn, (the regular anthem singer for the Blues) and occasional special-guest anthem
    singer Generald Wilson had cooked up what would have been an amazing duet for last night's national anthem. However, Charles was a little under the weather and didn't feel up to it. So Mr. Wilson (who has performed at many big-time, national sporting events in his Navy uniform) did his usual spectacular job as the soloist. If you can't be inspired by Generald's anthem, you had better check your pulse to see if you still have one. 
  • Some in the crowd were, no doubt, wondering why there was a start and stop, and start again to one of the in-arena promotions early in the
    game. Well...TV timeouts are taken on regular stoppages in play...and not on icing calls. Last night's NHL TV timeout coordinator (and there's nobody better) Kevin Boschert thought that icing had been called when it actually was an offside call. The rest of us on headset thought it was just a regular stoppage and proceeded to get into the promotion planned for talented in-game host Angella Sharpe on the TV timeout. Then Kevin realized it was actually not an icing call...and the game operations folks at the same time realized that he hadn't called for the TV timeout and stopped poor Angella mid-sentence. After the confusion was cleared up Angella proceeded to the entertainment part as planned. Oh well...stuff happens. 
  • To follow up on that, the pre-game show put on by Sr. Director of Event Presentation Chris Frome and Entertainment Director Jason Pippi was once again awe-inspiring and an amazing electric charge to get the fans prepped for action. 
  • Francis Charron who was a stand-by referee, and Scott Cherrey a stand-by linesman, in an earlier game in the series both skated in last night's game. Congrats to last night's crew. There weren't many complaints from anybody about the way the game was called. 
  • I happened to run into Blues GM Doug Armstrong in the hallway after the game. When I
    shook his hand and congratulated him I thought I felt a sense of his (probably enormous) relief after last night's win. But he always has a sense of "there's more work to be done" about him too. 
  • As luck would have it, just after running into Army, I also encountered Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. I guessed that he had just had a post-game talk with his team and was headed to the press conference down the hall. He had just come through a set of double doors
    that separates visitor territory from the Blues locker room area. Coach Q coached here in StL for several years and I always enjoyed chatting with him when given the chance. But I sensed that he was in no mood to talk last night. I just stopped in my tracks as he put his head down and put a hand up to his forehead in the corner made by the doors and the hallway. His emotional distress was obvious. What a classy and caring gentleman.   
  • My sense of the fan breakdown last night. 25% or so Hawks fans in the lower bowl. Maybe 5% in the upper bowl. I guess if you are traveling from Chicago to see a game in St. Louis, you may as well buy the expensive seats. 
  • You might ask..."How much fun was it last night to announce 'One minute to play in the third period'? Answer- What an amazing thrill to set 20-thousand people off into a thunderous frenzy like that. It must be like announcing the stretch run of a horse race. The finish line is in sight and anything still can happen. Wow! 
Just a final note- I'm so happy for Tom Stillman and the ownership group. If things had not gone the
Blues way last night, I can't imagine how painful from a personal and business standpoint it would have been. The guy loves hockey, the Blues, winning, and St. Louis. Could there be a better owner?

Friday, April 22, 2016


-Things You Might Not Have Seen (on TV in Game 5 of the Blues/Blackhawks Series)

Hawks win in 2nd OT 4-3 on Patrick Kane's first goal of the playoff series. You saw that.(If you were able to stay up late enough to watch) Here's what you might not have seen unless you were in the building...or up as close as me.
  •  Coach's Challenge?- After Kane's game-winner, the on-ice officials made sure the maintenance people and other folks who have on-ice duties after the game did not come onto the ice surface. Then they all skated over to the scorer's bench by me and waited to see if there would be a coach's challenge. They obviously thought that some of the traffic in front of the goal, and Brian Elliott complaining about it, might result in a replay situation. Obviously, the Blues video people didn't think there was anything that was worth a challenge and everyone eventually headed for the locker room. Elliott complained about not being able to get back over to defend the open net that Kane shot into. But replays show there wasn't much for him to complain about. He appears to get bumped by his own D-men. 
  • Stand by Ref/Linesman- The NHL sends a back-up referee to each playoff game just in case
    one of the on-ice guys gets injured or can't continue for some reason. The back-up guy would sub for either a ref or linesman. This actually happened a few years ago in one of our games when a linesman developed a rapid heartbeat. The back-up guy jumped in to call lines. Before the game the extra guy comes out to the penalty box in street clothes to observe the warm-up skate. Last night two guys showed up. I asked why there was two. The answer- in an elimination game they send an extra ref and linesman. So
    a ref won't have to call lines...a job he's not used to. Last night Francis Charron was the back-up ref. Brad Kovachik was the back-up linesman. 
  • The Blues led by Senior Director of Event Presentation Chris Frome and Director of Entertainment Jason Pippi put together a fabulous pre-game presentation which included video shown on the ice with a full-rink projection system. The guys from a company in Quebec
    who were brought in for the playoffs last year are back for another visit in '16. It adds a spectacular element for the enjoyment of the fans and really helps get the crowd amped-up. 
  • While we've become used to seeing a high-percentage of Hawks fans at recent Blues regular-season games, there wasn't much red to be seen in the crowd last night by my observation. 
  • During the playoffs, the Blues have been making an effort to get fans back into the old...and
    wonderful...habit of singing When the Blues (Saints) Come Marching In during the game. In the old Arena days it was mostly spontaneous. The idea seems to be catching on thanks to the leadership of uber-talented singer Charles Glenn leading the charge in our show. 
  • You won't realize it while watching the game, but the league actually uses different pucks during the playoffs. The pucks are actually the same regulation size...but they carry a logo of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the back with the Blue Note (or whomever is the host team) on the front. During the regular season it's just the NHL shield on the back. 
If there is a game 7 at Scottrade Monday night, I'll have some similar observations here about that one. (Hoping our next game will be in Round 2). Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NHL Offside Video Review - Part 2

This time I write after an inspiring, but confounding when it comes to officiating, 4-3 Blues win over the Blackhawks in game 4 of their first-round series. I say confounding because of several moments in the game which seemed to be judged incorrectly by the men in stripes. I have tremendous respect for the fellows who take on hockey officiating as their mission. So I'm not about to question their integrity or intent to get it right. What this is about is how video replay, and the precise nature of it, fits into what is otherwise a thoroughly imprecise process in regulating a hockey game.

I once again watched a video review of an offside call that could have become a part of turning a win into a loss for the Blues. Thankfully, if you're a Blues fan, it did not. And I once again came away wondering, "Does the coach's challenge and video review on offside really belong in this sport?" 

Point 1 (Free flow)- Part of hockey's thrilling nature comes from the constant action. Entertainment and enjoyment builds to frequent crescendos as one absorbs the continuous, swift, intense, and mostly-graceful movement of everyone on the ice. The free-flowing nature of it is inherent to the pleasure gained. The hitting...the speed...the skating skill...the athletic ability...all combine to form a magical combination of sports-viewing pleasure.

Point 2 (Game Clock)- Throughout a game, scores of happenings occur that are imprecise and somewhat random. For example- The time at which a ref raises his arm and whistles a penalty can vary depending on the decision process of that human in stripes. After multiple instances, this could add or subtract a few seconds to the period and game. The reaction time of the game clock operator in pushing the button could do the same. The clock might malfunction (We've seen that before). How long did it take for the sound to travel from the whistle to the clock operator's ears? Some end-of-period, or end-of-game, scoring plays theoretically shouldn't happen at all if these things happened as precisely as a video replay of offside. None are precise to tenths, or hundredths, of a second like frame-by-frame replay. So randomness and "close is good enough" rules throughout the game, except for the coach's challenge?

Point 3 (Decisions)- Whether to call a penalty, or not, and on whom such as with the very strange Corey Crawford/Robbi Fabbri confrontation, obviously effects who wins or loses. There are instances of offside being called, and play stopped incorrectly, but not challenged. How many times does that happen in which a goal might have been scored were play allowed to continue? In some cases video will show that officials have made a bad call, or made no call; as in Andrew Shaw being allowed to flip off the officials and shout slurs in last night's game without further penalty. (See video above) These officiating calls/non-calls aren't subject to review, or being overruled by a league official.

Considering all of the above, to inject the coach's challenge, and video replay of offside, I believe is counter-productive to the overall product. Does frame-by-frame analysis of a player's skate position seem logical when you have so many other random and unchallenged occurrences which might also decide a game's final score?

In summary, part of the charm of hockey is that you have human beings flying around the ice surface crashing into one another trying to gain a territorial advantage. You also have humans officiating who are doing their best to make sense of it all and keep it a fair fight. But they can't, and won't, always be able to do that. I believe we should be happy with the appeal, and somewhat homespun nature, the sport has always had...humans and all. There should be no prolonged stoppages devoid of entertainment which often frustrate fans when a decision is rendered anyway. The league cannot guarantee a totally justified final score no matter how many coach's challenges and video replays at a critical time of the game are allowed. Last night's Blues/Blackhawks game is exhibit one. The NHL should allow the players to keep skating and the humans to keep officiating.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Offiside? Can the NHL Adjust?

As I write this, the Blues are up 2-1 in their playoff series with the Blackhawks after an inspiring 3-2 victory Sunday afternoon in Chicago. Many of us who follow the Note are thrilled with that, but also thinking it could easily be a 3-0 series lead if things had gone a bit differently on Friday night at Scottrade Center.

The Hawks' 3-2 win Friday was particularly tough to swallow after it appeared the Blues had taken a 2-1 lead late in the game. Appeared is the operative word. Hawks' coach Joel Quenneville challenged the goal as offside, and won, after a long video review. Replays showed Jori Lehtera crossing the blue line with his trailing skate appearing to be a bit off the ice at that critical moment. (see photo above) Lehtera went on behind the goal and fed the puck to Vladimir Tarasenko for what Blues fans celebrated as an apparent game-winning tally. (Of course there was still some time to play...but, you know.)

It is already shocking to see how many instances of video challenge on offside plays have occurred in the playoffs across the league. And in reading Hockeybuzz.com's Eklund's thoughts on the Blues game, I have to agree that some kind of sanity must be brought to these situations; especially when a ruling goes a long way to determining the outcome of a game. There can be no disputing the fact that the ruling was correct, and that video showed it to be, based on the rules as currently written. But did Lehtera really "cheat" or attempt to hide behind the defense in order to gain an unfair advantage? Gaining an unfair advantage in an attempt to make a play is what the offside call in hockey, soccer, football etc. is all about isn't it?

On the play in question in the Blues game, Lehtera entered the zone and went all the way behind the goal before passing out to #91 for the goal. The defenseman on duty at the blue line for Chicago not only was even with Lehtera at the time he entered the zone, but chased him all the way back behind the goal on even terms. The goal didn't come as a direct result of Lehtera's skate being a fraction of an inch off-side. Someone else scored it after a defensible passing play. Up until the coach's challenge was implemented, that was as good a goal as you're going to see.

You can't blame a coach in that situation for taking a gamble that anything close is offside and asking for a review. Sometimes they'll win...sometimes not. But are we unnecessarily delaying the game for these reviews?...and also unnecessarily overturning what just about everyone who knows anything about hockey thinks is a good goal? Again...did Lehtera really gain an advantage by having his skate a fraction of an inch off the ice? As Eklund said in his piece, referring to what he called the disaster in St. Louis, "Did the missed call have anything to do with the goal?" 

It appears to me that the video replay which everyone in the building, and at home, sees is in most cases subject to the interpretation of the officials anyway. Why not just let the on-ice officials rule on what they see in real time and be happy with it? A player being offside should be blatant to have a real effect on the ensuing play. The video review also takes the human element out of officiating, particularly on this type of call. And then it re-injects a different human element into the final ruling that many won't agree with anyway; particularly if it's so close that it takes ten minutes to come to a decision. So why put up with the protracted delays if fans are eventually going to come away frustrated and confused by the eventual decision? (By the way, when the officials announce the final ruling on any of these reviews, the NHL needs to take a cue from the NFL and have the officials explain the call as thoroughly as possible.)

For Blues fans, the overturned call on Friday night was akin to getting exactly the toy you wanted from Santa Claus on Christmas morning only to have your big brother break it before you could play with it. Is that good for the sport? Was the sport better before the coach's challenge on offside? The current policy, with video assistance, was enforced correctly. But the current policy needs to be re-evaluated so that the spirit of the offside call is what fans get....and they get it in a reasonable amount of time. I'm hoping the next time the NHL general managers get together to talk about rules they will put this one at the top of their list.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

NGA West Comment

A public comment period is underway to allow for input to NGA Director Robert Cardillo as to the decision to locate the NGA West headquarters in North St. Louis, as opposed to the Scott AFB site. I took a few minutes to put in my two cents worth. I encourage anyone else who has thoughts on the subject to do the same. You may do so here- http://nextngawest.com/site/

Dear Mr. Cardillo; and others who may consider this comment,

Like many of my fellow southwestern Illinois residents, I was aghast at the announcement that North St. Louis was chosen as the preferred site for the new NGA West. Much of the media speculation prior to the announcement seemed to favor Scott AFB; and with plenty of good reason. Most who have lived in the St. Louis area for decades realize the enormous difference in what North St. Louis offers, or does not offer, as opposed to the area near Scott. Our trust was that someone who is making such a generational decision about the security of the United States, and the world, would be compelled to make the logical choice. When deciding between the security of a military installation and a blighted, crime-troubled urban setting for a critical intelligence agency mission one would choose to believe the intelligent choice would win the day. It appears not.

In reading some of the reasons given for choosing North St. Louis, it appears superficial environmental considerations and the provision of financial support to a re-development initiative in North St. Louis carried the day; instead of proximity to those most benefited by mission-critical information. The technical and security considerations put forth by the Illinois site supporters seemed to have little bearing on the initial preference. Why is that? We are not led to believe that pumping money into a run-down area of a big city is what NGA is all about. I don't pretend to think that politics didn't play a role in this decision. But in a perfect world it should not; especially not for a mission as important as that of the NGA. 

Please take another serious look at the benefits of locating at Scott. The nearby cities and counties offer high-quality universities which will produce many potential high-tech workers. And NGA may still draw upon the higher-education pool of the Missouri side. There would also then be no need to uproot a number of families who have called North St. Louis home for generations. If the commute time of the current workforce to a new location in Illinois was a factor, should it be? If so, those who make such a commute, such as the Missourians who work at our Belleville, IL campus of Lindenwood University, would tell you the commute is a breeze. At Scott there would be no need to be concerned about the security, personal and professional, of your workforce. And, more importantly, there would be the benefit of daily, personal interaction with those who most need and utilize the information produced by the NGA; the airmen, airwomen, and civilian workers based there.

I have no reason to argue for or against either location, other than the fact that my children and grandchildren will benefit from the information the NGA produces long after I am gone from this earth. I would like to believe they will live in a more secure world as a result of choosing the most effective location for NGA West. The Scott AFB location just makes the most military-mission sense; on the surface and in total. Changing the initial preference to Scott on the final decision seems unlikely, but it is the right thing to do. I'm hoping the fortitude and commitment to mission is there to do so. Thank you.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Thoughts on NGA

-Unless Robert Cardillo is into really big April Fool's jokes, the NGA West project will happen in north St. Louis and not where most thought it would, next to Scott Air Force Base.

If it weren't for the Illinois vs. Missouri competition that was set up on this thing, I'm not sure I would have much interest in it. But since it got so much publicity locally, I fell into the whole St. Clair County vs. St. Louis ballgame that was presented. And, as has usually been the case during my lifetime, Metro-East came out with the short straw.

It seems always to be Metro-East vs. St. Louis...or Metro-East vs. Chicago in most things political. And since Metro-East has less population than either of those other entities, the political muscle of St. Louis/MO and Chicago/IL generally carries the day. The National Geo-spatial Agency re-location bidding was just the latest example.

Now, if you're sensible, you would think locating the NGA, whose most important clients on the entire planet are located at Scott, in an expanse of free farmland next to the base, is a no-brainer. But, as with most things governmental and political, it's never that simple. The government has to take the common sense out of the equation and put the whole process through an expensive and wasteful collection of environmental studies and engineering opinions.

And then, worst of all, political wrangling, arm-twisting, and favoritism are allowed to overrule it all. So, at the end of this incredibly stupid process, you are able to read a lawyered-up and intentionally confusing tome of craziness as to why Mr. Cardillo arrived at the decision he did. One has to wonder if he didn't make his decision long ago based on orders from someone, and then the lawyers went to work on the reasoning. It would be very interesting to see a list of the people he took phone calls from, and how long those calls were, during the time this decision was supposedly still up in the air. Can you say...transparency?

For my part, and I'm not saying I'm unbiased, I can't imagine a worse place to put a spy agency and the high-quality, highly-paid work force, than a blighted, crime-ridden area in North St. Louis where you have to up-root a number of families just to clear the land needed. One can't watch the news on St. Louis television for five minutes without seeing multiple stories about shootings and other mayhem in that area of the city. I hope they plan to put one of R.Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes over the whole area for the sake of the safety of the employees.

But crime aside, the NGA is an evermore important part of the fight against the evils in this world. Our country needs this mission; and needs it to be done more than just well for the sake of our nation's security and well-being. How can we not put these people in the same proximity as the enforcers who will take their vital information and put it to use to protect us?

Will Mr. Cardillo be able to sleep at night if he bowed to political pressure and jeopardized the future safety of his fellow Americans?