Former ref: I cut Lindros no slack after run-in; ex-trainer fires back
JUL 17, 2014 1:40p ET
According to Paul Stewart, being a ref in the National Hockey League can be good, bad, and ugly.
That's evident in an article he penned for the Huffington Post, in which the former official recalls some of his memories from working more than 1,000 games in the league.
According to Stewart, the start of the second leg of a home-and-home between then-Atlantic division rivals New Jersey and Philadelphia during the 1992-93 season was subject to a TV delay. That's when he decided to make conversation with a few of the players. He eventually came to Lindros, who was a rookie at the time.
Based on Stewart's account, the interaction didn't go too well:
"Hey, Eric. How are things going? How's your dad?" I asked.
The response: "[Bleep] you. Just drop the [bleeping] puck already."
Stewart has a few theories for why Lindros might not have been in the mood to talk, but says at the end of the day those reasons didn't involve him. "You know what? Those were his problems, not mine," he admits. "But we were about to have a mutual problem."
Stewart flagged Lindros off the first draw of the game after he "bulled forward and drilled (former Devils center Bernie) Nicholls under the chin with his stick." But then the unpleasantness allegedly kicked up a notched when, after the game, Stewart went to get the posters he'd sent to the locker room for Lindros and Flyers teammate Mark Recchi to sign for charity.
After the game, I (went) to Turk (Jim Evers) to collect the poster tube.
"Stewy, you're not going to like this," Evers said. "I don't have them."
"What do you mean you don't have them?" I asked.
"Well, Rex (Recchi) signed the posters but when Eric found out they were for you, he tore every one of them up. I'm sorry about that."
I never spoke to Eric Lindros again.
It appears their working relationship was influenced thereafter:
One year, much later in his career when he was with the Rangers, I ended up getting him on eight minor penalties that season. I caught some heat for it from John Davidson on the Rangers' broadcasts, but the truth of the matter was this: I did NOT go out of my way to "invent" penalties on Lindros -- or any player -- but I wasn't going to give that guy a break on anything borderline that I might have let slide with a player who had gained acceptability with me.
Stewart seems to be saying he held Lindros to a stricter standard than he would have someone he had a more positive opinion of -- at least when it came to calls that could have gone either way. If that's indeed the case, do you agree with his approach?
As Stewart points out in the article, everybody's human, and that includes refs, too -- as much as hockey players may not be able to understand it when calls don't go their way.
"As is the case with any human relationship, there are some players and coaches that officials get along with better than others," he writes at the start of his piece. "Likewise, these relationships can change for the better or for the worse over time."
His relationship with Lindros is one example. As Stewart states: "Eric Lindros was a player I got off with on the wrong foot and we never developed a rapport because neither he nor I wanted one."
Does that relationship make the way he officiated Lindros OK?
On Friday, Evers joined “The Preston and Steve Show” on WMMR in Philadelphia to address Stewart's poster-ripping story. The interview occurred after Nick McIlwain, an employee of the radio show and Lindros' friend, says Lindros called him, first denying the alleged incident before becoming uncertain about whether or not it happened. Lindros then reportedly asked Evers to weigh in.
Here's what Evers had to say:
“I’ve known Eric almost his whole career, NHL career and minor league career when he played in juniors and everything, and he was a good guy. He would never -- I’ve been with him out at restaurants, out at different functions over the years and everything, when he played with the Rangers, when he got traded from here -- he would never do anything like this, gentlemen. Paul Stewart was saying . . .(inaudible) . . . he said he gave me two posters to get signed, for Eric to sign for charity or something like that. And to my recollection he never gave me any posters and even if he did Eric would sign them. Doesn’t matter if Eric liked the guy or not, whatever (inaudible) . . .”
Evers, who said Lindros "was as good of a leader as Bobby Clarke," was then asked why Stewart would make it up. Evers answered, taking a shot at the former ref in the process.
“I do not know. I’ve known Stewie. Stewie was a graduating student from University of Penn, so you’ve got to be pretty smart to graduate from there, you know what I mean? So maybe he has too many concussions, I don’t know, over his career. He was never that good of a hockey player.”
So is Stewart's story false?
“It’s got to be fabricated because I would never -- I’ve never even talked to him," Evers said. "I’d to say 'Hi' to him on the ice and everything like I said to the other referees. 'Cause Eric used to sign everything for the referees. Other guys on other teams used to send tons of stuff down. Even if he didn’t get along with that player on the ice or whatever, after they got off the ice he would sign stuff for the players and everything else or whatever. He would go out of his way for people. He’s not that kind of a man.”
So what do you believe? Did Eric tear up the posters or not?
Regardless, you can read Stewart's full article for HuffPost here.