Respect... Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gilles was yapping about a penalty that was just called on him. The ref told him, "If you don't think it was a penalty, don't go into the box." Gilles went to the box.
The ref at the time was Ray Scapinello, the retired NHL linseman, who actually wore the red armband for parts of six games in his distinguished NHL career.
Like he was on the ice, not often noticed but always there, Ray was more than happy to speak with me recently to discuss his new book, Between the Lines (affiliate link).
Ray told me he didn't even realize he wrote a book until he read it, but now whenever he visits a book store and sees "Between the Lines", he casually grabs a few copies and tosses them on "Oprah's Choice" table!
I had a few questions for "Scampy" from a fans prospective. I wanted to know who he considered the most hard-nosed player. Ray was quick to point out Darren McCarty, saying Mac always gave an honest effort and although not the most talented player, he brought it every game and played hard every shift.
I asked Ray if he ever heard the fans yelling at the refs and linsemen during the game and Ray said not really. He was always focused on the game but did hear a constant buzz from the fans, but individual voices never stood out.
One subject that often made me wonder was if the on-ice officials tried to avoid any interaction with players during the season. Ray mentioned on occasion, paths would cross, especially in restaurants. One time he was having dinner in Colorado and saw a few players including Ray Bourque. The great defenseman came over and they exchanged a bit of conversation and when it was time to pay the bill, the waitress informed him Bourque had picked up the check and the gratuity too. Ray pointed out the NHL players are the best of the bunch, they know the refs and linseman have a difficult job, and both sides have a mutual respect for each other.
I was surprised when Ray informed me he only spent 40 games in the minors before moving up to the NHL for 33 years (and never missed a game). Some of his counterparts spent 4-6 years in the minors before making the NHL which tells me the head of officials at that time had an excellent eye for talent.
Some players can say they have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals four or five times- quite and accomplishment in our eyes. But Ray Scapinello officiated in 20 of those finals, a number that will be hard to match in any team sport.
In closing, Ray asked me where I was from. When I mentioned Detroit and he found out I attended many a game at the old Olympia, well, let's say we exchanged some old memories of the "Red Barn". By the way, if someone from the Wings organization is reading this, Mr. Scapinello is still waiting for a brick from the "Barn"!