Apr 062010

We’re on the ice at the Skatium in Fort Myers hard at play when a dapper little guy dashes out wearing a full referee’s uniform. He barrels around the ice, warming up, then pulls out a whistle.


“Offside!” he shouts, snagging the puck off the ice and motioning the guys to line up for a faceoff. Like sheep, we obey.

Seconds later, there’s another blast of his whistle.


“Icing!” he bellows. He stands in the faceoff spot while one of the players directs the puck to his feet. He drops the puck between two sticks and blasts his whistle again.

This goes on for five or ten minutes. There’s a faceoff every few seconds and the guys begin to grumble.

“Who the hell is that guy?” someone asks. “Who told him we needed a referee?”

“Nobody invited him,” Dave St. Andrews says. “He just showed up,”

“Then tell him to go home,” I say. “We lose 15 seconds of playing time every time he blasts that friggin’ whistle.”

Dave calls the ref over to our bench. “Not so many whistles, pal. They eat up too much time. Besides, we’re used to calling our own offsides.”

The guy looks offended. Just then a defenseman slaps the puck into the net.

“Tweeet!” goes the whistle.

“How about that one?” says the ref, looking over his shoulder. He dashes in to retrieve the puck. “That was a good whistle.”

We don’t argue.

But he must have sensed how we all felt.

Two more offsides follow. He wanted to blow them down but he hesitated. No “tweet”. Then he lets an icing go.


A ref who can’t “Tweet” is no ref at all.

A few minutes later he was gone. Off the ice and into the dressing room.

Pissed off, no doubt.

But what do we care. We don’t give a hoot—or a “Tweet”.

Mar 192010

Red Storey Ends his Career

Throughout the 1950s, Red Storey, a former football star who once scored three touchdowns for the Toronto Argonauts in a Grey Cup game, established himself as one of the most colourful, popular and highly-respected referees in the NHL. But his illustrious career came to a shocking end during the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1959.

On April 4, 1959, the Montreal Canadiens, pitted against  the Chicago Blackhawks in game six of a best-of-seven semi final series at the cavernous Chicago Stadium,  held a three games to two lead. Storey’s work over the first two periods of a spectacular see-saw game drew nods of approval from Chicago coach Billy Reay and Montreal’s bench boss, Toe Blake.  Earlier in the series, Reay had pleaded with referee-in-chief Carl Voss to assign the unflappable Storey to referee game six. Before the third period was over, Reay would regret making that request.

It was an emotional match that was tied 3-3 in the third period. At one point Storey stopped by the boards and turned to see a fan pointing a gun at him. “I’m going to blow your brains out,” the man threatened, before two cops moved in and tossed the gun-toter from the rink.

With seven minutes left in the third period, Ed Litzenberger, Chicago’s leading scorer, went sprawling after he stepped on Marcel Bonin’s stickblade. No whistle, no penalty to Bonin. The Chicago fans, anticipating a power play, were stunned. They howled in frustration.  Moments later, they howled even louder when the Habs scored on Glen Hall to take a 4-3 lead..The boos rained down on Storey. With two minutes to play, and the score tied 4-4, Bobby Hull, in his second season, was flattened by a hip check thrown by Junior Langlois. It may have been a legal check but not a soul in the Chicago Stadium thought so. Again, Storey’s whistle remained silent.

While the enraged fans screamed at Storey, Montreal’s Claude Provost scored the go-ahead goal.

Bottles, cans, coins, programs rained down on the ice–all of the debris aimed at Storey’s balding head. Suddenly, a fan vaulted over the boards and ran at Storey, throwing a cupful of beer in his face. Before Storey could react, Montreal’s all-star defenseman Doug Harvey skated over and punched the intruder—hard. Continue reading »