TSN TV Schedule TSN2 TV Schedule
NHL

Fraser: Tortorella, Devorski and challenge of keeping cool

{eot}
TSN.ca Staff
1/17/2014 4:07:55 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

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.

Dear Kerry,
 
Love the articles, big fan since the beginning. Miss you on the ice.
 
I am emailing in regards to the video of referee Paul Devorski's last game with Vancouver. What is your take on the video of Paul clearly making derogatory comments about Tortorella during the Anaheim game last night (as Don Cherry would say "Don't read lips") and what would be the consequences of something like this happening during a game for a ref?
 
Thanks
Jeff Yates
 
---
 
Hi Kerry,
 
Recently, Paul Devorski has drawn the ire of Canuck fans of calling games slanted in the opposition's favour (including the most recent example of giving the Ducks a seven-minute 5-on-3 advantage). I wouldn't say the game against L.A. was refereed poorly, but I would suggest that it wasn't Devorski's best game and I'm guessing Tortorella had some comments about the refereeing after the game ended yet Devorski ended up refereeing the next game against the Ducks.
 
I know there have been examples of referees coming in on short notice (most notably the referees drafted in during the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Jim Schoenfeld overturned his suspension and the referees held a wildcat strike). After Stephane Auger's battle with Vancouver's Alex Burrows, I don't think Auger reffed games with Vancouver for a long time.
 
How often are referee assignments changed if something controversial happens in the previous game?
 
Thanks,
Gareth
Richmond, BC
 
 
Jeff and Gareth:

I thought Wyatt Arndt's blog article published in The Province was well written and provided a very fair and balanced account from all sides (If you haven't done so please open it up in Jeff's question and read it now).
Let me be perfectly clear, there is no justification for an Official (ref or linesman) to lose his composure and curse back at a player, coach or even a fan.  Regardless of just how difficult it might be to "bite your tongue" in the heat of the moment, any profane outburst from a ref becomes indefensible. 

A ref's credibility and respect can be damaged (at least temporarily) when negative emotions are inappropriately vented in public as we witnessed in this situation.  I'm positive that referee Paul Devorski regrets the poor conduct he demonstrated by sharing his feelings with colleague Dan O'Rourke in what he thought to be a private exchange. He should know that nothing is private anymore; if he didn't he does now.

It matters little that referee Devorski was the recipient of Vancouver Coach John Tortorella's profanity-laced attack; lip reading aside! What matters most is that the referee is entrusted with the authority to act as an impartial arbitrator and conduct himself in a professional manner at all times. You can rest assured that Paul Devorski has already been spoken to about this incident by someone from within Hockey Operations and/or the Officiating Department. There are also times when an Official's assignments will be altered to keep from throwing gasoline on smoldering ashes that remain from a previous game or incident. Moving personnel is not always easy with back-to-back games and especially on the West Coast.  While the referee's conduct was inappropriate it demonstrates something none of us should lose sight of.  These guys are only human!

There isn't a referee that hasn't slipped up and cursed at one time or another. I know for sure I have. I learned early in my career however that if I was expected to control the game and the negative emotions that often surfaced in disputes, it was imperative that I maintain control my own emotions. Believe me when I tell you there were many times that this good intention was much easier said than done!

I adopted the adage, "Treat disrespect, with respect" to gain leverage and exert control in heated exchanges with players and coaches. In an effort to quickly bring the temperature down, I incorporated non aggressive body language (open palms vs finger point) and a monotone voice inflection (vs elevated volume and shouting match). I attempted to quickly set the tone and establish an element of control during the dispute through my actions by demonstrating a calm but firm demeanor. I encouraged the other party to engage in a civil conversation as opposed to a giving or receiving a profanity laced lecture. Through the "conversation" that generally followed I listened as the player or coach expressed their opinion.  I then explained the reasoning behind my decision. In the end we might just agree to disagree. Regardless of the eventual outcome an effort was always made to solicit some form of civil decorum.

To maintain self-control as a referee it is important to feel your internal emotional pitch rise and fall like the mercury of a thermometer (Think of any bouts of road rage you have been a party to?). You better think before you speak and when you do listen to yourself; the tone, the volume and how it is being perceived.  I was in a heated debate with a player one time when I stopped abruptly in midsentence. I apologized for what I had just heard myself say to the player that I deemed inappropriate; I knew he must have as well. I withdrew my inappropriate comment by stating, "I'm sorry, that came out the wrong way; what I meant to say was this".  It is especially important for the referee to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.  Sometimes it takes super-human strength to keep your emotions in check.

In the 1974-75 season, I was assigned to an IHL game in Flint, MI. Late in the third period I assessed multiple penalties to Muskegon Mohawks defenceman Lynn Margarit following a fight. Margarit amassed 301 penalty minutes that season and 2,100 during his 10-year IHL career. The player and I engaged in a heated, nose to nose debate over the game misconduct he had received. In his rage, and as I opened my mouth to speak, Margarit 'spat' directly into my mouth! It immediately sickened me. Every muscle in my body immediately shook with rage in readiness to drill this guy. Somehow I was able to dig deep and maintained the self-control required of a referee.
In 1975, in an AHL game in Halifax, I was physically attacked by Richard Lemieux - who played 274 games in the NHL for Vancouver Canucks, Kansas City Scouts and Atlanta Flames. After receiving his third penalty of the game Lemieux threw down his gloves at centre ice and charged at me.

I squared to meet him with open palms as a "sign of peace!" Lemieux refused my peace offering and threw a left punch that I slipped and grabbed the sleeve of his jersey as his fist went past my ear. His right hand punch, I caught in the air and was then able to pull the jersey over his head. Thank goodness there were no "tie-downs" in those days!

Big Ken Houston jumped off his bench, placed me in a bear hug and lifted my skates off the ice thinking that I was going to punch his now vulnerable teammate just as the two linemen arrived on the scene. Following the game Lemieux, Houston and coach Al MacNeil came to the Officials' dressing room and issued a sincere apology. NHL President Clarence Campbell suspended Lemieux for 10 games in addition to imposing a hefty fine.

The point in both of these hostile and very aggressive confrontations with players is that if I, as a referee, had not maintained control of my emotions and acted in a "professional" manner, my officiating career would have ended before I even made it to the NHL.

On occasion, there are situations in a game that require superhuman strength for a referee to fight the natural tendency to be, "only human."

John Tortorella (Photo: The Canadian Press)

zoom

(Photo: The Canadian Press)
Share This

Share This

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to Stumble UponAdd to Reddit
Print this Story


TSN TweetBox
© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television