What Happened In "Clockgate"? NHL Contradicts Itself, Now Seems To Blame Own Official

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 01: Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal with no time left on the clock with Justin Williams #14 and Jack Johnson #3 for a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period at Staples Center on February 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The National Post is reporting a new development in the infamous "Clockgate" case.

Controversy arose after a game on February 1st where the clock paused too long, allowing Drew Doughty to score in the last second before the horn.

One important distinction, for those of you who haven't followed this story closely, is that the official timekeeper is employed by the NHL, not the Los Angeles Kings. When the league conducted an investigation into the matter, they reported no problems with the clock, and didn't cast blame on the timekeeper, either.

But on Thursday, a different explanation surfaced:

In an email Thursday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that investigation has laid the blame for the game clock delay on "human error." National Post, Jul. 26th, 2012

This story is making the rounds as the last word on Clockgate. But Daly's account appears to contradict the league's own previous statements when the investigation was concluded in late February. In that case, the key quotes came from Colin Campbell.

Here is what the league said back then:

Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, said Thursday that the clock's maker, Daktronics, had examined the clock and found "no defects." He also said the off-ice crew working that game had been interviewed and that he was "completely satisfied" with the clock operator, whom he would not identify.

However, Campbell said he plans to rotate the crew members' duties "to avoid any thoughts there may be issues with the clock when opposing teams play at the Staples Center." Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16th, 2012

The NHL said the clock maker found no defects, and the league interviewed the off-ice crew and was satisfied the operator didn’t pause it. Calgary Sun, Feb. 17th, 2012

Originally, the league gave no clear explanation. Now, suddenly, it's "human error."

That's a big difference. So what changed between February and July?

Details Still Unlcear

The impetus for the most recent Clockgate story seems to have come from a reporter's conversation with Omega’s chief Olympic timer, Peter Hürzeler (the subject of another interview on timekeeping at the Games). Hürzeler advances the theory that the NHL’s timekeeper stopped it. However, it is unclear if he is familiar with either Daktronics clocks or the NHL’s processes.

Daktronics is adamant that there is no calibration issue with their clocks. But no one appears to have investigated why the Staples Center clock had similar "hiccups" two times in a game against Colorado (which passed unnoticed because they had no impact on the outcome).

During the investigation, Rich Hammond of the LA Kings Insider made some comments on the matter that lead me to believe it’s difficult to stop the clock by accident, or in a way that would go undetected.

I’m told, by a couple different people, that when the clock is stopped, inside the booth next to the ice, that there is an audible beep, and that in this instance, nobody heard a beep. That would indicate that if there was a pause with the clock, it was a malfunction. It’s unfortunate that the league has allowed this "human error’’ possibility to remain part of the realm of possibility, when there’s no evidence of it. LA Kings Insider, Feb. 3rd, 2012

So whenever the game clock is stopped, there should be witnesses -- and according to this report, no one heard the operator pause it in the critical moments in question.

If the league has changed its opinion and does believe human error is the culprit, they owe us all a detailed explanation. How did it happen? Was it a mistake? What did the other witnesses say? Why does Daly’s e-mail seem to contradict Colin Campbell’s earlier statements? Have they learned anything new?

The extra point in that game didn't wind up changing the final standings for either team, but the NHL still owes a better explanation to all of us.

Why doesn’t the NHL provide us all with a clear, detailed account of what they think happened that night?

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