There is an old adage that no one roots for referees, umpires, side judges and linesmen except for league commissioners and the officials' families. Hall of Fame linesman Ray Scapinello agrees that not many people root for the ref or the linesman, but he and his fellow officials actually found a friend among Boston's famed "Gallery Gods" in the old Boston Garden.
"The Gallery Gods were a group all to themselves," said Scapinello, who was as an NHL linesman from 1971 through 2004, working more than 2,926 regular-season and playoff games. "They were passionate Boston Bruins
fans, and if you ever called an offside or penalty against the Bruins, you were no longer in their good books.
"We used to know a lady. Her named was Margie, who has since passed away, but she worked at the Holiday Inn in Boston where we stayed and she was one of the original Gallery Gods for the Boston Bruins
and she took a shine to us. When the Gallery Gods would start hollering at myself or John D'Amico, she would make them stop. It was OK to yell at (referee) Wally Harris or Ron Wicks, but not Ray Scapinello or John D'Amico. I was protected by Margie Prodanis."
Going into Boston is not an easy chore as either a ref or a linesman, but Scapinello said he was well-prepared dating to the days of his rookie season.
"The guys will tell you I got to work several games with John D'Amico, Neil Armstrong and Matt Pavelich when I started in 1971," Scapinello said. "All Hall of Famers. They would tell you what was going on and what to prepare yourself for when you got into different cities, the old Chicago Stadium, the old Boston Garden, the old Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, they told you what to look out for."
The Boston Garden was often compared to the Montreal Forum. The Forum didn't have glass near the player benches, and that meant linesmen could easily intermingle with those who had rink-side seats, whether the conversations were planned or not.
"Obviously at the Montreal Forum, there were fedoras that came flying out," Scapinello said. "I don't have to tell you about the price of a fedora, they were pretty expensive (for hat tricks) and a lot of toe rubbers. Toe rubbers at the old Montreal Forum, I took a lot of those off the ice as well.
"In the old days in Montreal, in the '70s, everybody was dressed to the nines. Shirts and ties and a fedora on and in those days, between the players bench at the Montreal Forum, they never had any Plexiglas. The people sitting in the first row would have their elbows right on the dasher boards, you jump up and you would sit on their hands half the time.
"The fans would shove you back on (the ice), absolutely. You would sit on their hands, they would free themselves up and throw you on, go do your job."
The Montreal rink-side fans were just as tough, maybe even tougher in some instances, than the players Scapinello supervised on the ice.
Scapinello thinks hockey fans are rabid because they passionate.
"Hockey just draws out the passion in people, and I can understand that," Scapinello said. "The players are passionate and it is all about winning. And officials, we can't. We can be passionate about our job, but we cannot have highs and lows. We have to have a level temperament. Chicago was boisterous, if you are a Ranger fan, the fans will tell you 'We are the most rabid,' if it was Boston, they'd tell you, if it was Long Island they would tell you."
One of the reasons hockey fans are so passionate is because there is an awful lot going on in a hockey game, including goals, hard hits and fights. Fans not only hold great players in high esteem, but the Reggie Flemings, John Fergusons, Bob Proberts and Tie Domis, the NHL heavyweights, too. Even an old-time linesman like Scapinello has admiration for the "heavyweight fighters."
"You know something, in all honesty, the heavyweights like the Proberts and the Tie Domis are the easiest guys in the world to break up as a linesman. They know what their job is, they do it and when it is done, they pat one another on the butt and say nice job and they break up," Scapinello said. "The guys who are the toughest to break up are the guys that don't fight very regularly and they want to get in that last lick. But the heavyweights, there is an unwritten code about the guys and they don't waver from it."
"It was OK to yell at (referee) Wally Harris or Ron Wicks, but not Ray Scapinello or John D'Amico. I was protected by Margie Prodanis." -- Ray Scapinello
Officials are not really supposed to have favorites, but Scapinello is now four years away the NHL ice and he can come clean about some of his favorites. Scotty Bowman is at the top of his list.
"The greatest coach I ever saw," Scapinello said of Bowman. "I will tell you something, when Scotty Bowman tells you something, you can take it to the bank because that guy is the greatest coach I ever seen in my years in the League."
And if the truth were known, Scapinello, who was in linesman in quite a few Detroit Red Wings
playoff games, had no problem when an octopus was tossed on ice. He even scooped up a few in his career, it was just part of the job. An occupation he held for 33 years.