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Another exciting Stanley Cup Final series begins tomorrow night as the New Jersey Devils host the Los Angeles Kings. The NHL announced the names of the 'third team' selected to participate in the championship round; namely the referees and linesmen that are the last men skating. That said, congratulations to the following officials and their family on their selection:
REFEREES - Dan O'Halloran, Dan O'Rourke, Chris Rooney and Brad Watson.
LINESMEN - Derek Amell, Jean Morin, Jonny Murray and Pierre Racicot.
This will be the first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final for referee Chris Rooney from Boston and linesman Jonny Murray - a native of Quebec City who resides in Florida. A special C'mon Ref congratulation is extended to them on their accomplishment!
Regardless of your opinion on the current state of officiating in the NHL, it's a tremendous achievement in any official's career to be deemed worthy for selection and to reach this pinnacle of excellence. Enjoy the moment gentlemen and give the game the very best that you have to offer. The eyes of the hockey world will be watching.
I had the privilege to work 12 Stanley Cup Final series; the majority of them in the one-referee system. Each one presented unique challenges and special memories. I will share just a couple of them with you here.
My first trip to the final was in 1985, when Glen Sather's amazingly talented Edmonton Oilers defeated Mike Keenan's Philadelphia Flyers in five games. I could never have anticipated the additional media presence and scrutiny that took place during the Cup Final. It was almost overwhelming.
Prior to the series I was selected to work Game 2 and 5 but was pressed into action in pivotal Game 4 back in Edmonton when Andy Van Hellemond pulled up lame after two laps around the ice during the morning skate. I worked both games with Hockey Hall of Fame linesmen John D'Amico and Ray Scapinello. I couldn't have had two better linesmen to work with.
Game 4, won 5-3 by the Oilers, turned out to be a tremendous game - including a penalty shot I awarded to Ron Sutter of the Flyers with the Oilers on a 5 on 3 man advantage. Sutter was fouled from behind on a breakaway after intercepting an Oiler pass. His penalty shot attempt failed.
Following the Oilers' victory in Game 5, NHL President John Zeigler was on his way to present the Cup to the Oilers on national television and saw me standing outside the officials' dressing room. The President made a slight detour with his entourage and to share with me his gratitude and personal thoughts that Game 4 was the finest game he had ever seen officiated. It was a tremendous honor to have my work acknowledged by the President of the NHL in my first visit to the Stanley Cup Final.
Every official will certainly remember the first time they are selected to work the Stanley Cup Final.
The Los Angeles Kings are back in the final following their previous appearance in 1993 and I wish to share with you two stick measures that occurred in Kings games. I'm sure that you all remember Marty McSorley's illegal stick that I measured in Game 2 of the Cup final in the Montreal Forum. You are probably unaware that it wasn't the first situation that season when the Kings and I were involved in measuring an illegal stick. Call it karma or just bad luck but some Kings fans think of it as a "curse."
Here are the details:
In the 1986-87 season, I was assigned to work at the Great Western Forum as the Kings hosted the Calgary Flames. With the score tied late in the third period I awarded a penalty shot to Joey Mullen of the Flames. Then-centre Bernie Nicholls was on the ice at the time and approached me prior to the penalty shot being taken. Bernie advised me privately and unbeknown to the Flames shooter that they wanted Mullen's stick measured for an illegal curve.
I informed Bernie of the rule which stated he must make the formal request prior to the shot and that I would confiscate Mullen's stick upon completion of the shot and then measure it. I then told Bernie that should Mullen score on the penalty shot and his stick proved to be illegal then I would disallow the goal and the Flames would incur no further penalty. If Mullen's stick was legal and he scored there would be no further penalty assessed to the Kings. Bernie was okay with everything to this point in my explanation however he had to think for a moment on what I told him next.
I further explained that if Joey Mullen did not score on the penalty shot and his stick proved to be legal then the Kings would receive a bench minor for delay of game. Bernie said, "Oh, I didn't know that part so I need to think about it for a minute." I told him he better think pretty quickly because Joey Mullen was moving to toward centre ice to take the shot! Bernie advised me he wanted the stick measured after the shot.
Joey Mullen scored on the penalty shot and was more excited that I thought would be normal on scoring a potential game-winning goal. His celebration was over the top when I approached him and grabbed hold of his stick and advised him that Nicholls and the Kings had requested the curvature of his stick to be measured. The blood drained from Mullen's face as he followed me to the referee's crease.
I measured the stick and it proved to be illegal. I advised Mullen that the penalty shot goal he had just scored would be disallowed but no further penalty would result to his team. Mullen pleaded with me not to take the goal away because it he was going for his 50th goal of the season and that he had a $50,000 bonus for scoring 50 goals! I told Joey I was sorry about his luck but as great a goal scorer as he was I was confident he would get No. 50 later. The Kings-Flames game ended in a 3-3 tie that night and Joey Mullen never scored ithe rest of the way; stuck on 47 goals! That was a very expensive illegal stick he used in his second last game of the regular season.
Many would say the same is true of the stick Marty McSorley used in Game 2 of the Cup Final that same season.
With 1:42 remaining in Game 2, the Kings were up by a score of 2-1 and set to take a commanding lead in the series back home to LA after winning game one 4-1. Canadiens coach Jacques Demers sent captain Guy Carbonneau and alternate captain Kirk Muller over to me and they requested that I measure the curve of Marty McSorley's stick.
The measurement wasn't even close; as a matter of fact much worse than Joey Mullen's illegal curve had been! Wayne Gretzky was standing at the edge of the referee's crease and rolled his eyes as I showed him the result of the measurement. Thirty-two seconds later, with Marty sitting helplessly in the penalty box and Patrick Roy pulled for an extra attacker (a very gutsy move by Demers), Eric Desjardins scored the tying goal from the point to force overtime.
Desjardins became the first defenceman in NHL history to record a hat trick in a Stanley Cup final game, when he scored his third of the night just 51 seconds into overtime to end the game. Montreal won the next three games and their 24th Stanley Cup.
Call it karma or dumb luck, but the good news for any Kings fans that subscribed to the "curse" theory is they can rest easy. I can say with certainty that the Kings' equipment staff will be measuring every stick that is used in this final series.
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