Leading up to the game between the New Jersey Devils and Hartford Whalers on Jan. 15, 1983, there was no indication that history might be made. But once the game started in Hartford, Conn., Mickey Volcan and Garry Howatt became the central figures in an unusual and historic moment that likely never will be repeated. Thirty years later, they still occasionally talk about being the only players in NHL history to serve as emergency on-ice officials in an NHL game.
On their way to the game from Boston, referee Ron Fournier and linesman Ron Asselstine got stuck in a snowstorm. So by the time both teams were ready to drop the puck, there was only one linesman available to officiate the game. Just 15 minutes before game time, linesman Ron Foyt assumed refereeing duties and approached each team about finding replacement linesmen.
"All of a sudden, [Whalers coach] Larry Kish said, 'We're going to have a player from each team and you're going to represent our team,'" Volcan, who was unable to play that night due to a hand injury sustained in Hartford's morning skate, said. "So we put on some sweats and black practice jerseys and they called us in to the room prior to the game. We sat down and he [Foyt] went through it with us."
"He [Foyt] told us to stay out of the way," Howatt, the Devils' enforcer who was recovering from a knee injury at the time, said. "I was hoping for a fight to break out so I could get in there. It was interesting."