No Problems for Fill-In Officials : Hockey: On first day of strike by NHL referees and linesmen, replacements keep the peace in three games.


As a physical education instructor at Archimbault prison, a correctional facility on the outskirts of Montreal, Luc Lachapelle spends his days working with criminals.

Think he was intimidated by replacing striking NHL on-ice officials Monday at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens?

Intent on proceeding as usual on the first day of a strike by referees and linesmen, the NHL trotted out its most imperturbable and experienced replacements to set a tone of calm.

There were few apparent differences compared to games worked by the regular officials, except for the smattering of applause that greeted the replacements at the three scheduled games in Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary, and the small earpieces each official wore to maintain contact with NHL supervisors.

“I think this is going to be a strike nobody cares about,” Mighty Duck President Tony Tavares said. “When you’re offered the kind of increase they’ve been offered, who are they going to get sympathy from? Average guys won’t sympathize with them if the replacement officials do a decent job. . . . People aren’t going to stop coming and players aren’t going to stop playing because the regular officials aren’t there.”


The subs appeared poised and none were harassed by players, who were urged earlier in the day by NHL Senior Vice President Brian Burke to cooperate with the new officials. Lachapelle disallowed a Toronto goal while the Edmonton Oilers were leading, 4-2, but he drew no dissent from the Maple Leafs when he ruled that he had blown the whistle before the puck crossed the goal line. The game ended in a 5-5 tie.

Lachapelle was involved in a misunderstanding with 33 seconds to play in the first period, when he gave Toronto’s Wendel Clark a five-minute boarding penalty and told Clark to head for the showers. Clark, believing he had been ejected, showered and undressed; Lachapelle realized what had happened when he didn’t see Clark skate to the penalty box at the start of the second period, and Clark was quickly tracked down and told to return.

Lachapelle and Toronto Coach Pat Burns laughed over the incident. “He did a good job,” Burns said. “The outcome of the game was not affected by the refereeing.”

Said Lachapelle: “I was kind of nervous, kind of anxious. It was tough to concentrate all day. It’s not the same game as in juniors. It was faster and I had an adjustment to make, but I think I did a good job.”

The officials in each game yelled to one another occasionally about their positioning, but avoided major confusion. They kept up with the play, called the obvious penalties and let the game flow, allaying, at least on the first night, players’ concerns that games might either be called too closely or not closely enough.

“We’re very pleased to be able to take the people we have with this kind of experience and have them at these games,” said Bryan Lewis, the NHL’s director of officiating.

Whether the NHL has found enough competent officials to maintain that caliber when the schedule is more hectic should become clear by the weekend. Four games are scheduled tonight, seven on Wednesday and eight on Thursday.

It appears the walkout, the first league-wide strike by on-ice officials, will last at least that long. Don Meehan, who represents the NHL Officials Assn., said he had no talks with NHL executives Monday, but is willing to make the first call to break the stalemate, which centers on a $1.5-million difference in benefits and a request of a 60% first-year salary increase. The NHL’s “final” offer, which was rejected by a unanimous 58-0 vote last Friday, offered a 65% increase over four years.

“We may get together later this week, at least those are my hopes and expectations,” Meehan said. “There always is room for compromise, absolutely, and I indicated that to the other side. . . . It would have to be a meaningful exchange of views and ideas that would show a recognition of our concerns.”

The backgrounds of the referees and linesmen at Monday’s games were representative of the 70 subs recruited by the NHL.

Lachapelle, 39, has been a referee for 17 years in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was a linesman in the 1976 Canada Cup tournament and three times officiated in the Memorial Cup, the championship tournament for Canada’s major junior leagues. He was tested early Monday when the partisan Toronto crowd wanted an Edmonton player penalized for hooking Doug Gilmour, but he was not swayed by the fans’ sentiments.

His linesmen were Bob Bell and Brian Marshall, who both have extensive junior hockey officiating experience. Bell, 31, is a Toronto native who worked in the Ontario Hockey League for five years and 11 in the Ontario Hockey Assn., the next level down. He also spent three years in the Metro Toronto Junior Hockey League.

Marshall, 32, has worked in the American Hockey League for six years. He spent six years in the OHL, 10 in the OHA and three in the Colonial Hockey League. He also officiated in the 1991 Canada Cup and the 1993 Memorial Cup.

Bob Morley, 38, was the referee of the Montreal Canadiens’ 4-2 victory over the Senators at Ottawa. A native of Rugby, England, he officiated for 20 years in the OHA and 10 in the OHL.

He also has worked in the Colonial Hockey League and in international games for the International Ice Hockey Federation, including the 1991 Canada Cup tournament. He lives in Hamilton, Canada.

Linesmen Doug Brosseau, 35, is an engineer who has extensive OHL experience and was an official in the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary. Linesman Steve Corylon, 33, has 10 years’ OHL experience.

In the Calgary Flames’ 7-2 victory over Winnipeg Jets at Calgary, the referee was George McCorry, 41. He has officiated for 16 years in the Alberta Junior A League, worked at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and was a linesman in the World Hockey Assn. during the 1978-79 season.

Linesmen Roger Castle, 44, and Bob Porter, 39, are also from the Alberta Junior A League.