Monday, July 02, 2007

Summer Reading List

Ok folks, to help kill time, I'm ripping off my buddy Sparky and will do book reviews throughout the summer months here to help kill time until hockey season starts again. (No I'm not becoming a knitter)

So we start today with a gift from the parental units from last Christmas because now that I'm done with Grad school, I'm more likely to read for recreational purposes.

Between the Lines: Not-So-Tall Tales From Ray "Scampy" Scapinello's Four Decades in the NHL.
By: Ray Scapinello (DUH!) and Rob Simpson
Publisher: Wiley (September 11, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0470838345

At first blush, my parents did a good job in getting me this book for Christmas. I've always been interested in what referees think and more importantly, how they think when they are calling a game. Twice now I've had the opportunity to listen to NHL on-ice officials talk about their trade and explain what happens on the ice. While Linesmen like Ray "Scampy" Scapinello aren't noticed (or for that matter heckled) as much as the referees are, they do have an important role and when they mistakes, it often gets high publicity.

The life of an official is tough too. Not only are they thrown into high pressure situations as often as the players are, they never have a home game. They never have a home crowd to welcome them and give them support. This is an aspect of officiating often lost on most fans who see the guys in the zebra stripes as another opponent to be overcome in that particular game.

Coming in at 10 Chapters and 264 pages in the hardcover edition, the book is a quick and relatively easy read. However, if you're looking for additional insight to the mind of a linesman, you're not likely to get it in this book. The first few of chapters make you wonder just who in the world the book is about. In the process of giving ample praise for Scampy's durability (he only missed one assignment during his entire NHL career and that was on purpose), you come across seemingly just about every officials name from the last 40 years and what gruesome injury they happened to suffer. Fans of Rob Shick are even treated to a quick description of his run-in with Shayne Corson that left him cut wide open one night in Los Angeles.

Scampy goes through the highlights of his career including working the Olympic Games in Nagano in 1998 and the farewell game for Igor Larionov in Moscow back during the lockout. Some of the lowlights are included which means blown calls and the time Scampy joined his fellow officials in walking out of Game 4 of the 1988 Wales Conference Finals between Boston and New Jersey. You might remember that one because it was after Game 3 when then Jim Schoenfeld confronted referee Don Koharski in the tunnel after the game, calling him a "fat pig," and telling him to "have another donut." Schoenfeld was suspended for one game (Game 4) but the Devils took the case to court and got an injunction to allow Schoenfeld to stand behind the Devils bench in Game 4. Upon hearing the news, all four officials (including Scampy and the backup referee) refused to work Game 4 (which the Devils won 3-1) and were almost fired for their actions. Because the other NHL officials backed up the crew who refused to work, no disciplinary action was taken, Schoenfeld eventually sat out Game 5, and Boston won the series in seven games.

Scampy (and the other officials who appear throughout the book) also comment on the state of the game today. While there usual statement of "fighting is a part of the game" is made, Scampy and his fellow zebras are adamant about not wanting the NHL to return to it's 1970's state. They have no love of the bench clearing brawls (especially when they were premeditated) and certainly don't want to see a return of players going into the stands to brawl with the fans as was custom during those days. Scampy also expresses regret of the outcome of the infamous Colorado-Detroit game in March of 1997. Scampy flat out says that referee Paul Devorski blew the game (and Devo concurs) because Darren McCarty, who attacked Claude Lemiuex, was allowed to stay in the game and ended up scoring the game winning goal in overtime. Scampy's one complaint about the two referee system is that the the linesmen can no longer help the referees call penalties and uses this as Exhibit A as to why it should be case.

The big thing however that a reader takes away from this book is the big family that the NHL is. It only makes sense that the officials would be close knit group but you also get a sense that the players are a part of the group as well. You really see how close the players and the refs are to each other both on and off the ice.

Up next, The Code (no, not DaVinci...)

If you have any suggestions for sports books for me to read and review, please send them to "capsnut" over at gmail dot com. Thanks!

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