Former NHL player and referee Paul Stewart has a new column up on the Huffington Post about his officiating days. It's peppered with excellent anecdotes, none better than one involving Eric Lindros, then a rookie for the Philadelphia Flyers, being a spectacular prick.
I was working an afternoon Philadelphia-New Jersey game at the Spectrum; the back end of a home-and-home. The Devils won the previous game, 6-4, in a game refereed by Mark Faucette. The game got chippy late in the third period, with about 40 penalty minutes being handed out in the final five minutes, including roughing penalties to Lindros and Scott Stevens in the waning seconds of the game.
The start of the game at the Spectrum was delayed several minutes. I had to wait for the red light on the scorer's table to indicate that the broadcast had returned from a commercial and it was OK to drop the opening faceoff.
During the delay, I made small talk with several of the Devils and Flyers on the ice. I said hello to Mark Recchi and talked to Bernie Nicholls. I then tried to greet the 19-year-old rookie Lindros.
"Hey, Eric. How are things going? How's your dad?" I asked.
The response: "[Bleep] you. Just drop the [bleeping] puck already."
Lindros was apparently in a bad mood because he'd recently missed 12 games with a knee injury, the team was in a losing skid, and he'd had a tough game in New Jersey. This game was also played about a week after Lindros had to go to court in Toronto after the Koo Koo Bananas incident. You know what? Those were his problems, not mine. But we were about to have a mutual problem.
Right off the opening faceoff, Lindros bulled forward and drilled Nicholls under the chin with his stick. I ditched Lindros on a high-sticking penalty.
Before the game, I had brought a tube filled with posters to Flyers' equipment manager Jim "Turk" Evers. The posters, which depicted Recchi and Lindros, were to be autographed and then donated to a charity auction. I had done a similar thing in other cities, such as a Cam Neely and Ray Bourque poster in Boston, and a Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh.
After the game, I want to Turk to collect the poster tube.
"Stewy, you're not going to like this," Evers said. "I don't have them."
"What do you mean you don't have them?" I asked.
"Well, Rex signed the posters but when Eric found out they were for you, he tore every one of them up. I'm sorry about that."
I never spoke to Eric Lindros again.
One year, much later in his career when he was with the Rangers, I ended up getting him on eight minor penalties that season. I caught some heat for it from John Davidson on the Rangers' broadcasts, but the truth of the matter was this: I did NOT go out of my way to "invent" penalties on Lindros — or any player — but I wasn't going to give that guy a break on anything borderline that I might have let slide with a player who had gained acceptability with me.
A 19-year-old Lindros angrily tearing up charity posters is a high point in athlete dickhead behavior.