Touch Calls by Dick Irvin
Talk about your tough calls!
It’s the fourth game of the Eastern Conference playoffs, 1995. Alexei Kovalev of the Rangers is down, apparently unconscious. At the other end of the rink, the Nordiques star forward is rushing the net. Joe Sakic fans on the shot and Kovalev doesn’t move. Andy van Hellemond, the game’s most experienced referee, is somewhere in the middle, trying to decide what to do. Thinking that Sakic’s rush has failed and worried about the man who’s down, he blows his whistle. What he doesn’t know is that Sakic has somehow recaptured the puck and scored, and that Kovalev is about to get up and skate to the bench. But play has been stopped and the goal doesn’t count. The Rangers go on to win the game (in overtime) and then the series.
Fortunately, not all calls are that tough. And, more often than not, the officials get them right. Most have endured a hard apprenticeship on their way to the big league. They have seen just about everything, from bench-clearing brawls to fish on the ice. They’re a savvy and tightly knit group. They have to be.
They are connoisseurs of fights. Some remember when players fought with two hands, instead of grabbing the other guy with one hand while swinging the other. Some classic brawls are recalled in these pages. Gordie Howe ’s decisive battle with Lou Fontinato is described by the linesman who broke it up. Later, expansion-era brawls started by Philadelphia’s “Broad Street Bullies” are similarly recalled by officials who knew, at least, what they were in for when the puck was dropped.
Following the formula that has worked so well in his previous books, Dick Irvin lets the referees and linesmen tell their own story. It’s not all about mayhem. Kerry Fraser reveals the secret of his perfect hairdo. Don Koharski explains what happened after New Jersey coach Jim Schoenfeld called him “a fat pig.” And Paul Stewart tells what it’s like to make the transition from refereed to referee.
The stories in Tough Calls are as varied, colourful, funny, farfetched, and revealing as any collection of anecdotes ever brought together about the game of hockey, making this an indispensable addition to every fan’s library.