Referee Paul Devorski is taking a lot of heat for his offhand remark to fellow official Dan O’Rourke that was caught on camera.  Even the least capable lip reader can figure out what was said, and the context – having just handed out 40+ minutes of penalties that put the Canucks two-men short for seven minutes – makes it pretty clear who he was referring to.

I’ve held him accountable.  Kerry Fraser, via his TSN blog, has called his behavior inexcusable.  Linds Mabry over at The Referee’s Crease is in Devo’s corner:

What’s Said Between Us Can Have Consequences

by Amateur Referee Linds Mabry

We’ve all been there. Every one of us has been yelled at, cussed, and belittled by a coach after explaining or informing them of a call.


Referee Linds Mabry

Referee Linds Mabry

All you can do is stand there and take it.


You bite your tongue, you take a deep breath, but you do not fire back. You just stand there holding all those emotions in when every fiber of your being is screaming at you to give this guy what he is asking for. When you finally get to skate away, you see your refuge — the only person/people that are on your side.


So, what do you do?  If you’re like me, and if you have the time to do so, you skate over and let some of that frustration go. You just received the chewing of a lifetime and weren’t even able to defend yourself. It’s just the two/three of you standing there in our crease. You proceed to tell them how big of a ******* ******* this guy is and that you are doing the best ******* job that you can and that he wants to give you this much **** over a 2 minute ******* penalty. You have pride too and when you’re not able to stand up for yourself while you are being demoralized its a pretty big hit to it.


Ok, so you’ve blown off some steam and you’ve done a relatively decent job of keeping your emotions in check. Hey, its nothing a beer or two with the boys after the game won’t fix, right?


That’s when you realize that your Timekeeper has heard every word that you have said. I’m sure a lot of you are like me in the fact that your Timekeeper is usually a parent. If it’s not then its some type of league official. Let’s just say that this one is not very sympathetic to your current situation.


Now what?  Now, you’re screwed and you have no one to blame but yourself. Yeah, it was supposed to be a conversation that was just between you and your partner(s), but you didn’t make sure that they were the only ones that could hear you.


NHL Referee Paul Devorski's Comments Caught on Video

NHL Referee Paul Devorski’s Comments, Caught on Video

This is why I believe that Paul Devorski is incurring this week’s Internet Referee hate. I understand that a referee at his level has nowhere to hide and that what he said was supposed to be a conversation between himself and Dan O’Rourke and that it just happened to be caught on camera. I have absolutely no problem with what he said. You have to be expected to show a little humanity when you are talking to your partner, especially if you have just informed John Tortorella that the opposing team is about to go on a 7 minute 5-on-3 Power Play. Honestly though, I really don’t believe that this would even be today’s object of Ref hatred if it wasn’t a) for the video game-like score, b) for the crazy, but rightfully-called 7 minute 5-on-3, or c) and probably the biggest reason, in my opinion, the fact that Devorski points to the bench when saying what he said. If it wasn’t for that gesture to the bench I believe that no one would be mentioning Devorski’s name.


Seriously though, anyone who follows NHL Officiating – hell, anyone who truly follows the NHL – knows that Devorski is notorious for dropping F-bombs. This isn’t uncommon, but everyone wants to act like it’s some big surprise and gets entirely bent out of shape when a ref gets caught on camera dropping one. The point I’m trying to make is that emotions in very volatile situation are almost impossible to control. Even someone as elite as Paul Devorski can lose control of them.


We all take pride in what we do. We work hard studying, skating, and training to constantly get better. People don’t know and don’t understand how much time and effort we put in making ourselves better Officials. Except for each other the only thing we have out on the ice is our integrity and when someone calls that in to question, it hurts. I know. All you want to do is scream back, but you can’t. You have to hold yourself to that higher standard. You have to be better than what they are. You have to find that strength within yourself to just tune it out and if it gets bad enough there are always penalties that can be handed out.


Its very important to know how to pick your battles. Most just really aren’t worth fighting. Every ref possesses the tools to win every one, its the good Ref that knows which ones to lose. When you do lose one and you’re at that point where your anger and frustration is about to get the better of you just remember that an on-ice conversation may not be private. That’s why they give us our own dressing rooms. Once you’re in there its safe to just let it fly. Talk about it with you partner(s), but when you’ve got it all out of your system it’s important that you leave it there. You can’t carry it with you. You have to be able to forget it ever happened because chances are you will be seeing that coach again. We have to be a lot like goalies. Short memories. This is a lesson that I, myself, am still trying to learn. We cannot let what happened in one game follow us around. It is very important to move on and forget about it.


What you say to your partner(s) should always be just between you. However, it’s not a perfect world. There’s always going to be someone with their eyes on you just waiting for you to drop the ball and when you do they will be right there to call you on it. We must be beyond reproach. I’m not saying don’t voice your frustrations or anger to your partner(s). In fact, you should. They may be able to give you some tip or advice that will calm the situation. I’m saying you have to voice these concerns respectfully, especially if there are kids involved. Yeah he might have used that language with you, but you have to be bigger, be better on the ice.


When you go out for that beer after the game, that’s when you say what you want.

Originally posted at The Referee’s Crease.  Reprinted with permission.  Follow Linds Mabry on Twitter – @5PlusAGame