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Appreciate all your insight into what goes on in games. I'm just looking for an explanation - in Wednesday's Flyers-Capitals game, why didn't Wayne Simmonds receive a third-man in during the line brawl last night? He clearly grabbed Erskine, who was engaged with Lecavalier, allowing Vinnie a free cheap-shot right to the mush!
Seeing the Flyers-Caps line brawl last night, what's the most interesting story from your officiating days when it came to breaking them up?
You are correct in your assessment that Wayne Simmonds deserved a game misconduct when he grabbed John Erskine around the neck allowing Vincent Lecavalier a free shot as the players fell to the ice. Let me break the play down for you and explain how both refs were focused on other wrestling matches taking place in the moment and missed the grab by Simmonds.
This quickly developed into the proverbial cluster-'bang' after Luke Schenn delivered a hard but legal check on Ryan Stoa against the boards just inside the Flyers blue line. Caps tough guy Tom Wilson skated directly toward Schenn for the sole purpose of instigating a fight. As the two players dropped their gloves Wilson's intention was placed on hold as Schenn's leg became caught up with Stoa and the Flyer fell to his knees and promptly placed in a vulnerable position. Wilson did the honorable thing and refrained from throwing a punch at Schenn.
Brayden Schenn, who Wilson leveled with a devastating illegal hit in a previous meeting, demonstrated his brotherly love in the City of Philadelphia by attempting to engage Tom Wilson on Luc's behalf. Both linesmen quickly intervened and prevented an altercation from developing.
As brother Luc was untangling his leg from Ryan Stoa, things really got rolling when Wayne Simmonds fronted Stoa and cuffed the Capitals forward on the visor. This prompted big John Erskine to lead the charge at Simmonds. Linesman Scott Cherrey, a second round selection in the 1994 entry draft by the Washington Capitals, alertly intervened between Erskine and Simmonds.
A war on two fronts began once Luc Schenn was able to return to his feet and he and Tom Wilson mutually agreed to engage in a toe-toe slugfest at the Flyers blue line. This fight forced linesman Cherrey to return to the original altercation to assist his partner and leave a pack of angry players that included John Erskine, Wayne Simmonds and Vincent Lecavalier to sort things out. Without any policing in effect John Erskine moved to engage Vinnie Lecavalier which prompted Simmonds to jump on Erskine's back. As they fell to the ice in a heap the remaining players piled on. The secondary fight erupted when Erskine quickly broke from Simmonds grasp, jumped to his skates and began trading bombs with Lecavalier below the goal line as the remaining players wrestled one another from a position close beside them.
This action caused Steve Mason to move out of his goal crease and in close proximity to jump into the fight and assist Vinnie if necessary. This a whole lot of action taking place at one time for the referees to observe! Both refs shifted their focus away from the fight and wrestling matches in the corner as they moved Mason back to his goal crease to prevent any possible recurrence of the Ray Emery-Braden Holtby incident. In the exact moment that Wayne Simmonds, in his intense wrestling match with Connor Carrick, threw a bear paw swing around Erskine's neck, referee Paul Devorski had turned his head to the left to focus on Brayden Schenn and Jay Beagle.
In the next frame the ref refocused to catch Erskine, Lecavalier, Simmonds and Carrick falling to the ice in a heap. The ref may or not have witnessed the free punch that Vinnie got in on the way down to the ice from his position. In any event Wayne Simmonds escaped a game misconduct as third man into the altercation.
I was physically involved in many dust-ups when line brawls and bench clearings were common place from the 1970's through the 1980's. One of the most bizarre situations I encountered in breaking up an altercation was when John MacLean of the Devils smoked me right between the eyes with a left that was intended for Moe Lemay of the Boston Bruins in game two of the Eastern Conference Final on May 4, 1988.
The Bruins, coached by Terry O'Reilly, had beaten Jim Schoenfeld's Devils by a score of 5-3 in Game 1.
Game 2 was a rough-and-tumble affair that the Devils eventually won 3-2 in overtime, but before we reached that point a line brawl broke out when Bruins player Moe Lemay went hard to the Devils goal, bumping Sean Burke. The cavalry came to the defence of their goalkeeper, and linesman Gerry Gauthier was tied up with Willi Plett of the Bruins and Perry Anderson of the Devils against the boards in the end zone. Linesman Ron "Huck" Finn was trying to separate Lemay and MacLean, but they had dropped their gloves and were ready to rumble. Poor Huck Finn was on his own, so I came in from behind to grab Lemay and pull him out of the altercation just as the punches started. I moved around Lemay to tie up his right hand and skate him out of the exchange when, unfortunately for me, Finn didn't realize that MacLean's left hand was free. Johnny Mac unloaded with his best shot from over the top.
The closest head to punch was mine - he drove me right in the freakin' head. It staggered me momentarily, but thank heavens John MacLean was a better scorer than a puncher. I was still on my skates. I aggressively tied up Lemay and moved him out of the there so that I wouldn't have to take any more shots. I assessed John MacLean 14 minutes in penalties and Lemay with 17.
In Game 3 back in the Meadowlands, the dust-up didn't occur on the ice but in the hallway leading to the officials' room following a 6-1 Bruins victory when coach Jim Schoenfeld confronted referee Don Koharski. The cameras were rolling and preserved for posterity, the infamous line shouted by the coach at the referee, "Good, because you fell, you fat pig. Have another doughnut!"
Dust-ups were common place back then but seldom like the ones that occurred in the 1988 Eastern Conference Final between the Bruins and the Devils.