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And we're now in Round 2! Bruins! Canadiens! We know all about the great games of the past from the players, the broadcasters and the writers. How many games have you officiated between these two teams and what memories do you have from them?
I worked far too many games between these two great Original Six Adams Division rivals during my 30 year NHL career to even count. What I will never forget is the intense energy that was created both on the ice and in the stands whenever these two teams met. The Bruin teams that general manager Harry Sinden assembled always had some 'scary dudes' in the lineup to deal with over the years. The Big Bad Bruins were best known for playing a tough, intimidating, yet hard-working style that often made it a challenge for any referee to keep things under control. Players such as Wayne Cashman, Terry O'Reilly, Stan Jonathan or Jay Miller, just to mention a few, could usually be counted upon to make my life interesting. Star players like Raymond Bourque, Rick 'Nifty' Middleton, and power forwards Al Secord and Cam Neely balanced the Bruins attack. I saw Jean Ratelle at the end of his career as a Boston Bruin and recall that Mr. Ratelle was one of the finest gentlemen I ever dealt with on the ice.
Montreal tended to prefer a speed and finesse game led by the grace and skill of Guy Lafleur but they had their share of top notch 'muckers, grinders and checkers' as well. Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Brian Skrudland, Mike Keane, Ryan Walter, Kirk Muller were all examples of Hab players that played a 200 foot game that was instilled by a long list of Hab coaches. Some of the best fights I witnessed involved John Kordic of the Habs. Mario Tremblay was a guy that played the game the right way and could really fight as well.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention my new 'bestie' Chris Nilan who I always had to keep a sharp eye on when he played for both the Canadiens and the Bruins! One of the most bizarre lines of defense I ever heard from a player in a league hearing came from Nuckles after I assessed the Canadiens tough guy a match penalty for knocking 'Nifty' Middleton's teeth out with a butt-end ('Nucks' still insists it was his glove). The incident took place in a game in the Bruins end zone, well away from the play and as the puck was moving up ice. Fortunately I snapped my head back toward Nilan in the perfect moment to catch the strike on Middleton. At the subsequent hearing held in the NHL boardroom in Montreal I got the cold icy stare from 'Nuckles' when he arrived with team general manager Serge Savard. League disciplinarian, V.P. Brian O'Neill, read my game report and the asked Chris if he had anything to say on his behalf. In a thick Boston accent 'Nucks' said, "Yah, I got something to say for myself; Kerry Fraser picks on me and gives me more penalties than any other referee in the league. Whenever I'm on the ice he's always watching me. Just to prove my point, if he had of been watching what he should have been (the puck and play going up ice) he wouldn't have seen me butt-end Middleton in the mouth!" Serge Savard practically spit his coffee all over the board room table following Nilan's unusual line of defense. Brian O'Neill suspended Chris for eight games, which at the time was substantial (Catch 'Nuckles' on his terrific show on TSN Radio Montreal. Chris 'picks on me' now as a frequent guest on his radio show).
As we approach Game 1 tonight of the 34th such playoff series between the Bruins and the Canadiens, I will share two personal experiences. The first involves the classy superstar and HHOF member Raymond Bourque. After the national anthem and prior to the opening puck drop, Bourque approached me quietly and advised me to be sure to move away from the dot at center ice quickly if his center ice man won the faceoff cleanly back to him. If that were to happen, Bourque said he was going to pound the puck at the Montreal net to try and catch Patrick Roy off guard. Sure enough, the puck was drawn back cleanly to Raymond. The Bruin wound up for a slapper with his head up but noticed that I got caught up in the wingers behind me and was unable to clear the spot. Instead of blasting the puck, Bourque froze his pose in the back swing. My life practically passed before my eyes but the deliberate 'pregnant pause' allowed me to back away before Raymond pounded the puck through the very spot that I had been standing a moment earlier. Game on as Roy made the save.
The other involves a fan that was either drunk, out of control, or most likely both. In a very tough game I had just assessed a penalty and was standing in the referee crease during a commercial timeout and as the players stood at their respective bench. An empty 26 ounce Seagram's whiskey bottle flew out of the upper level of the Forum and landed at center ice. The bottle hit the ice flat, didn't break and began to spin as it moved in my direction. The bottle then struck the dasher kick plate beside my skate and amazingly still did not break. I picked the empty bottle of 5 Star off the ice and handed it to the penalty timekeeper.
Even though these incidents occurred in different games from different playoff seasons, I had two narrow misses; one from a Raymond Bourque slap shot while the other was a flying whiskey bottle. Ray demonstrated the class I always experienced from the B's superstar. The only positive thing I can say about the classless fan is that at least he drained the contents of the bottle prior to throwing it!
I expect an emotional, tough series between these two old Adams Division rivals.