October 04, 2009

Sunday Funnies: Official Debut

In the summer I experimented with a new light-hearted feature I will make into a regular feature this season. It will highlight the comical hijinx and hilarity of hockey throughout history. I call it Sunday Funnies.

Since this is the "official debut," I thought we'd take a look at the lighter side of officiating.

Reffing a hockey game is the toughest officiating gig in pro sports. But some refs have had it worse than others. Here's some great examples I found.

Get back here!

Way back in 1895 Quebec fans were so incensed with the officials following a 3-2 loss to Ottawa that they dragged the officials back to the rink and attempted to force them into declaring the game as a tie! Fortunately the police intervened to save the refs. Meanwhile, the unmentioned league suspended the Quebec team for the rest of the season because of the incident.

I'm going home!

In 1899 the Winnipeg Victorias became irate with referee J.A. Findlay during a Stanley Cup battle with Montreal, also known as the Victorias. Findlay assessed a two minute penalty on Montreal's Bob McDougall for hacking down Winnipeg's Tony Gingras. The Winnipegers were up in arms, as since Gingras had to be carried off the ice they demanded a harsher sentence. They even went as far as to return to their dressing room to pout and delay the game.

Findlay must have thought they were not coming back, because he decided to go home, the game still incomplete! Over an hour later arena officials tracked him down by sleigh and convince him to return and finish the game, only to find the Winnipeg team still uncooperative. Findlay then awarded Montreal the victory by forfeit.

Too Drunk To Ref

That same playoff Montreal stormed off the ice in a game against Quebec. The reason - they believed the referee was too drunk to officiate the game. The ref in question was Fred Chittick, who normally was a goaltender for Ottawa.

Pennies for your thoughts

One of the most famous incidents involved Ken Randall back in 1918. The Toronto pepperpot received a week's suspension for his constant verbal abuse of the officials. The ban was later reduced, so long as Randall paid $35 in outstanding fines. Just before the big game before Ottawa, Randall showed up with the money in hand. He had $32 in bills, along with 300 pennies. When the officials refused to accept the pennies, Randall plunked the money bag right at center ice as if to show the world he should be allowed to play. An unknown Ottawa player got into the act, slapping at the bag and spreading pennies everywhere. That gave Randall enough time to find three $1 bills.

Don't Pull The Hair

Officiating hockey is tough because you have to break up fights. Just ask Clarence Campbell. he may be far better known as the NHL president from 1946 to 1971, but earlier he was a referee. In 1937 he was officiating a playoff game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons. Dit Clapper and Dave Trottier lost their cool and dropped the gloves, which was not such a great idea for Trottier. Clapper, a noted fighter, was pounding the helpless Trottier pretty good. Campbell tried to break up the fight by pulling Clapper by the hair. Clapper did not appreciate that very much. He got up and decked the referee! Clapper would be fined $100.

Snowed In

More recently, a snowstorm forced NHL players to act as linesmen in an actual NHL game. On January 15th, 1983 a blizzard held up referee Ron Fournier and linesman Dan Marouelli from getting to the arena on time for the New York Islanders and Hartford Whalers game. Ron Foyt, the other linesman, was present, and was promoted to referee. Meanwhile healthy scratches Garry Howatt of the Islanders and Mickey Volcan of the Whalers served as linesmen. By the beginning of the second period Fournier and Marouelli did make it to the rink.

Hard Hitting Ref

My favorite referee follie has to be the story of Ching Johnson. Johnson was a hard hitting NHL defenseman from 1926 through 1938. After retiring as a player, he tried staying in the game as an official in the minor leagues. But ol' Ching found the transition a bit difficult. On one play referee Johnson interrupted a good scoring chance by body checking the puck carrier! "The old habit was too deep within me," he said in his defense. "I forgot where I was and what I was doing."

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