Deprecated: Automatic conversion of false to array is deprecated in /var/www/ on line 243 - Paul Stewart - The Stew: Telestrators, High Hits, Ron Ego
Wanna blog? Start your own hockey blog with My HockeyBuzz. Register for free today!

The Stew: Telestrators, High Hits, Ron Ego

April 23, 2023, 12:59 PM ET [5 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulStewart22

I've been enjoying the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs so far. As we get three or four games into each series, I see that some reminders are in order.

1) Officials do not care whatsoever about which of the teams involved win or lose a game or a series. "Our" team wears stripes. An official's hometown or playing affiliation(s) back in the day (at whatever level of the game) are as irrelevant for referees and linesmen as these details are for players on an opposing team.

2) Officials care about judging the game to the best of our ability. "Your" team's won-loss record when Official A works the game is purely coincidental.

3) When we have to break out the telestrator, super slow motion and freeze frame to declare why something should or should not have been judged as a penalty, we're overthinking it. That said, Mike Rupp's explanation of the high-sticking play that felled Scott Mayfield in the Islanders vs. Carolina series was pretty much on the money. The one thing he did not discuss, which is paramount to understanding any call, is the positioning and vantage point of the official(s) involved.

As for the play itself, while players are responsible for their own stick, there are certain factors -- follow-through on a shot, stick-lift by an opposing player -- that, within reason, can affect a high-stick call. I say "within reason" because there are players, such as Hockey Hall of Fame forward, who'd serially clip opposing players with their stick to the point where it was hard to give the benefit of the doubt that a routine stick lift or follow-through was the sole factor.

4) More and more, I think our sport is heading toward a reality even at the NHL level where almost no one is versed in how to deliver -- or receive -- a check. There's a two-way street here, and I think we're reaching the point (if we haven't already done so) where professional players struggle to tell the distinction between what is or isn't a legal check. That's part of the reason why I think a fight/scrum has become almost automatic whenever there's contact in open ice. All the time, I see players, coaches, broadcasters, etc., struggle to discern between what is or isn't a check from behind (vs. from the side or someone turning toward the boards at the worst possible time), charging or not charging, and what is or isn't an illegal check where the head is the principle point of contact and the contact is avoidable.

Do we even WANT hitting in the game anymore? I don't ask that flippantly. Everyone knows that I am fundamentally old school. But I also care about keeping the game safe. All the time, I see plays where neither the one who delivers a hit nor the recipient knows the technique to do it safely or keep himself protected. It worries me, greatly.

Unless we re-prioritize the element of teaching our young players how to safely deliver a hit -- for example, yes, you tuck your arm but it's still illegal to explode upward into the head or to take several long strides before a late "glide" -- we're going to keep holding our breath every time a player needs assistance off the ice. Same thing with the receiving end of a hit. So many players are careless about where they are relative to the boards, or admiring their pass that they put themselves at their oponent's mercy (or lack thereof).

5) I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of retired NHL/WHA referee and officiating supervisor Ron Ego at the age 79. He was still an active official while I was playing in the WHA and was a supervisor while I was reffing. He was a nice man with a good sense of humor away from the ice and a solid official on the ice. Perhaps his greatest moment on the ice was that he refereed the deciding game of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final (the Bobby Orr "flying through air" game). Rest in peace.


A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of
being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Join the Discussion: » 5 Comments » Post New Comment
More from Paul Stewart
» Hockey Time Machine
» Brind'Amour's suggestion is interesting but problematic
» The Stew: Attacks on Wes McCauley's character are a DISGRACE
» The Stew: Goalie Chemistry, Overreactions, Courage in NHL Drafting
» End the LTIR Games