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Fraser: My memories of working Leafs-Canadiens games

Kerry Fraser
2/27/2013 4:01:20 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Hi Kerry,

With the Canadiens visiting the Maple Leafs, I am pumped! You must have officiated at least one Habs/Leafs games in your career - do any moments stand out? How about from other rivalries?

Sandy S.,
Toronto

Sandy,

Methinks your question just might be a setup?

Allow me to address '93 reasons for the most high profile Canadiens-Leafs games that I potentially never got a chance to work as quickly as you can say 'missed high stick?'

With that out of the way I'll strap on my helmet and await comments from those of the Leaf Nation that are still bitter over this self professed, worst missed call of my officiating career. I implore others to be tolerant of their upset in the thumbs up/down voting since it has only been 20 years and healing from excessive grief is an individual thing.

As we move forward I must share with you some nostalgic thoughts and excerpts from my book, The Final Call.

While growing up in Sarnia, Ontario there was something magical about watching my Leafs play (yes I said 'My Leafs') against the Montreal Canadiens on a Saturday night. The only thing better was when they met in the Stanley Cup Final!

The entire Fraser family congregated at my Grandma's house for her famous spaghetti and meatball dinner, followed by music that filled the living room performed by Grandpa on the fiddle and my father and uncles playing their guitars and singing. They played right up until the opening faceoff, at which point the only sound you heard were Foster Hewitt's voice and the groans from the living room whenever the Leafs missed a scoring chance or were scored on.

It was a dream come true that my very first game in the NHL as a Referee (albeit a pre-season game) was at Maple Leaf Gardens on a Saturday night with the Montreal Canadiens as visitors. I made my way through the spectators that lined the hall from our dressing room and then through the penalty box prior to the National Anthem.  I didn't know if I should step on the ice or get down and kiss it.

On my first turn around the ice, I looked up at the gondola I had seen so many times on television, from which Foster Hewitt and his son Bill broadcast the games. Everything looked so much more immense and bright. Making the turn I looked directly into Harold Ballard's 'bunker.' There he sat with King Clancy beside him.

My extreme nervousness dissipated once I dropped the puck between Darryl Sittler and Doug Jarvis and all went well until I missed a penalty against the Leafs - or at least that's what future Hall of Fame defenceman Guy Lapointe thought.  The Leafs were winning by a goal with a couple of minutes to play and Lapointe was quite animated in his protest of the non-call. Wanting to appear like a veteran, I thought it wise to call him by his first name, which I hoped would make him feel comfortable with me. I put my hands up with palms open and said, "Relax Serge!" Well, Lapointe shot me a look of disgust and said, "My name is Guy, you ------- rookie!"

A few days later I had my first game in the Montreal Forum, another hallowed hockey shrine. I sent my skates up the hall to the Canadiens dressing room for trainer Eddie Palchak to sharpen. The linesmen and I were dressed and ready to go onto the ice prior to Roger Doucet's famous rendition of the national anthem, but my skates had not yet arrived.

The linesmen made their way to the ice as Raymond, our room attendant, rushed into the Officials' dressing room and apologized for being so late with my skates but explained how busy they were in the Canadiens' room.

In a rush, I jammed my feet into the skates and shaving cream flew out of both of them. I quickly laced up and rushed to the ice, just as Roger was about to sing. As I steeped on the ice, my left skate went in one direction and the right in another. Guy Lapointe was standing beside Serge Savard on the Canadiens' blue line with a big grin on his face.

After the anthem, he skated over and asked, "How are your skates tonight, rookie?" I replied, "Perfect, Guy - just the way I like them." We both laughed and the ice was broken. Guy Lapointe was a much better player than he was a sharpener of skates...

Sandy, the thing that I remember most about Leafs-Canadiens games and other rivalries was the anticipation that you alluded to in your question unlike any regular game. Walking on the street to get into either arena you could feel they buzz of intense energy the crowd transmitted that had actually been building throughout the day. At puck drop the players and officials fed off this enthusiasm and energy and the game always started with a quick pace or even a fight.

Pat Quinn and I had our share of disagreements over the years but I must confess I really respect and like the guy. I think he is a terrific hockey man and coach. So many times he displayed "grumpiness" in his approach to me and other officials. My good friend Brian Burke once told me not to take it personally - Pat just hates all officials!

In Pat's second-last season as coach of the Leafs, I was excited to work another Leafs-Canadiens game in Montreal on a Saturday night. I arrived at the Marriott Chateau Champlain for a late lunch on game day.

The restaurant was empty and Benito, the waiter greeted me as old friends do and sat me at a table close to the buffet. Shortly thereafter, Pat Quinn entered the restaurant. Benito brought him over to the table beside mine. Without sitting, Pat looked at me, then at our friendly waiter and growled, "Benito, the whole restaurant is empty and you are going to sit me down beside the g----n referee? "

Benito thought Pat was kidding; I knew he wasn't. Nonetheless, Pat sat and began reading his paper. Following that brief period of discomfort, I thought I would attempt some conversation beyond the subject of the weather and got some pro bono advice on immigration and citizenship applications I had recently filed from Pat the lawyer. After lunch I said it was nice talking to him and wished him luck in the game that night.

Pat's Leafs won, 2-1, and as he crossed the ice to his dressing room, I said with a smile, "See? All you had to do was have lunch with the g----n  referee." Pat immediately quipped back with a broad Irish grin, "If that's all it takes, I would have done it long ago." 

I wish I had more space to share the other great rivalries that the game and the fans enjoyed through the 1980-90's but I thank you for the opportunity to reminisce even a little bit.

Sandy, get pumped because you will feel the energy on the street long before the Air Canada Centre gets rocking.

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit The Book Keeper website.

For a regular copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit here.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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