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Hi Kerry, love the blog - keep em' coming!
Did you see the third period bruhaha with Mike Rupp and half the New Jersey Devils on the ice Monday? Was there anything the refs could have done earlier in the game to prevent this from happening (Pierre McGuire said we saw this coming)? It's getting nasty in this series and that said, what's the nastiest series you've officiated this late in the playoffs?
Pierre McGuire and the referees saw it coming because they felt the temperature spike at ice level following the power play goal scored by Zack Parise at 2:41 of the third period to give the Devils a 3-0 lead. I certainly saw it coming from my living room as I'm sure most of you did as well from wherever you were watching the game as well. Referee Chris Rooney had an extended discussion with Ranger Coach John Tortorella just prior to the face off when Mike Rupp picked up 14 minutes in penalties and got an early shower after giving Marty Brodeur a push/punch to the chest.
While Parise's power play goal might have thrown another log into the furnace, the fires of player hostility had been lit long before this game even started. Public comments made to the media by coaches and players, along with the one game suspension to Brandon Prust helped to fan the flames as the series continued to heat up prior to this game. Game 4 incidents, including Marian Gaborik's elbow that caught Marek Zidlicky in the face at 4:25 of the second and Ryan Callahan's face wash of Ilya Kovalchuk in the third that led the Devils star to pitchfork Callahan in gut with a spear motion only added more fuel.
One of the worst feelings for a referee is when he gets the sense that one team has shifted their focus from attempting to score on their opponents to softening them up for the next game or are seeking retribution with little regard to winning the game. When that situation occurs the referee will enter damage control mode and be quick to penalize the guilty team in an attempt to keep the peace and provide for player safety.
Immediately following Referee Rooney's discussion with ‘Torts' the puck was dropped at center ice. Mike Rupp lined up opposite Steve Bernier and banged the Devils forward with a couple of shots to the back of his shoulder/neck area just to get his attention. Rupp then immediately went on the attack as the puck entered the Devils zone and left his feet and brought his hands up to knock down Peter Harrold behind the net. The referee wisely deemed this hit of the illegal nature and his arm went up immediately on a delay to keep a lid on things. When the whistle blew Rupp then gave Brodeur a shot in the chest to further demonstrate that scoring a goal was not his primary objective at this point in the game. It was wise of the referees to remove both Mike Rupp of the Rangers and Ryan Carter of the Devils with misconducts in addition to the minor penalties that they incurred.
While the Gaborik elbow and Kovalchuk's spear were missed or uncalled infractions I don't believe there was much that the referees could have done differently to prevent Mike Rupp from the seek and destroy mission he engaged in on this shift. The referees responded appropriately and can't be accused of overreacting or taking the game away from the Rangers.
This series has turned nasty at times but that is indicative of playoff hockey as we often hear in coaches post-game comments. Remember some of the craziness that took place in the first round of these same playoffs? The stakes are high and dislike between opponents is quickly established.
A series I recall as being particularly nasty and then turned ugly was the 1988 Eastern Conference Final between NJ Devils coached by Jim Shoenfeld and Terry O'Reilly's Boston Bruins. The Bruins won the first game by the score of 5-3 in the Boston Garden. I was assigned by Director of Officiating, John McCauley to work game two. Coach Shoenfeld's team was not going to go back to ‘The Swamp' without a split and came out aggressively right from the opening puck drop.
A brawl broke out when Bruins player Moe Lemay went hard to the net and bumped Devils goalie Sean Burke. Scrums quickly developed in the end zone as players paired off. Linesman Gerry Gauthier was tied up with Willi Plett of the Bruins and Perry Anderson of the Devils against the boards by the hash marks. The other linesman, Ron “Huck” Finn (Referee Wes McCauley's uncle) was wrestling with Lemay and the Devils John MacLean out near the blue line. ‘Huck' was on his own, as was Gauthier, but Lemay and MacLean had dropped their gloves and were about to start throwing punches.
I thought if I could intervene before the bombs started to fly we might avoid a line brawl so I came in from behind to grab Lemay and pull him out of the altercation. The punches started just as I moved around Lemay to tie up his right hand and move him out of the exchange when, unfortunately for me, Finn didn't realize that MacLean's left hand was free. MacLean unloaded with his best shot from over the top and nailed me right in the head. It staggered me for a moment but I remained on my skates with the help of holding onto Lemay's sweater. The adrenalin rush kicked in and I wrestled Lemay out of the fracas and gave MacLean 15 minutes in penalties and Lemay 17.
The Devils won the game 3-2 in overtime but beyond that Coach Shoenfeld and his players sent a message to the Bruins and their coach that there was more to be had when the series returned to the Meadowlands!
In Game 3 Shoenfeld's message was saved for Referee Don Koharski after the game as the Bruins took it to the Devils by a score of 6-1. The not-so-kindly line of “have another Donut” resulted in a one game suspension to the Devils coach for Game 4. But, 40 minutes before the game, Judge James F. Madden of the New Jersey Superior Court granted Jim Shoenfeld a stay.
NHLOA President Dave Newell had been assigned to work game 4. He and the linesmen Ray Scapinello and Gord Broseker refused to work the game with Coach Jim Shoenfeld behind the bench. The teams, the fans and the television viewing audience waited for over an hour as negotiations took place between NHLOA lawyer, Jim Beatty (who flew in for the game) and League representatives. Director of Officiating, John McCauley pleaded with Referee Newell to take the ice under threat of termination.
Referee Dave Newell stuck to his guns and three amateur officials from the off-ice crew served as referee and linesmen dressed in yellow practice jerseys to start the game. John McCauley attempted to assist them with instructions from the penalty box while John's two young sons, (16-year-old Wes and brother Blaine, 12) looked on from the press box.The NJ Devils won this game 3-1 but it turned beyond ugly. Fights and full scale line brawls erupted throughout and ended with the two coaches coming close to blows near the end of the game. In the aftermath, Coach Jim Shoenfeld was suspended for Game 5, received a $1,000.00 fine and the Devils were fined $10,000.00.
I advised my colleague Don Koharski to open a new business called “Koho's Donuts” and retire a millionaire! Instead he continued as an NHL referee and had a terrific career retiring after the 2008-09 season. Koho now serves the NHL Officiating Department is a supervisory capacity.
You have to go a long way to find a series any nastier than that one Matt.