**APRIL FOOL'S PRANK**
Who really wants to be an on-ice official these days?
USA Hockey has about 25,000 registered on-ice game officials, but it's an ongoing battle to maintain those numbers.
Putting up with disgruntled players, coaches and parents for little more than gas money is simply not the ideal way to spend an evening. But it can be a legitimate career path, too, and leagues like the North American Hockey League have become a viable training system for those seeking to work games at the highest levels.
Here's where former USA Hockey Director of Officiating Scott Brand comes in. Brand’s new Virtual Linesman technology has been secretly tested within this NAHL season. The junior league has been testing the Virtual Linesman system for the entire 2018-19 season according to sources within the league.
Brand's company, SportsBrand Solutions, developed the new technology that could eventually eliminate the use of linesmen from the game entirely.
“The technology simply eliminates blown off-sides calls,” Brand said of his product. “Reducing the on-ice crew, from three or four to a maximum of two, will actually improve the policing of the game’s rules while eliminating some of the behind the play shenanigans.”
Brand is shopping his Virtual Linesmen product to other national associations around the world, including the National Hockey League.
The system works using radio microchips that have been placed under the pad of each NAHL player’s helmet, along with infrared sensors creating a grid are adjusted for each arena’s ice surface.
“The system also has the ability to take the guessing out of plus/minus ratings,” Brand added.
The NAHL official we spoke to feels that Brand’s product will revolutionize the game. “First of all, the numbers don’t lie, Brand’s system has proven to be accurate on 99.4% of the occasions. I wish we could say the same thing for our linesmen, but it’s not even close.”
“We have to seriously consider taking the next step and removing the linesmen for next season. Once that is done, we feel that the cost savings alone will be worth the initial investment,” the NAHL official added. “We spend a tremendous amount of money on officiating, so if Brand’s product can help reduce costs, we have to be interested.”
“Listen, I know that a lot of guys are not going to be happy with this product, but in the end, we are going to make the game better,” Brand added. “These players deserve the right calls to be made, our product will help eliminate the mistakes.”
We love the idea and know the coaches will too. Brand’s system can’t be any worse than the boys doing that job now.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO SCOTT BRAND AND THE NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE FOR PLAYING ALONG!