One referee is assigned to each Stanley Cup Playoff game as a standby official. They’re ready to jump into action should anything happen to one of the on ice officials. In some games – especially in the later rounds – each game also gets a standby linesman. During the opening round, though, there’s just one official on standby.
Linesman have been forced to leave the ice in two separate incidents this week.
Saturday’s game between the New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning saw veteran linesman Steve Miller leave due to an undisclosed injury. He was replaced by standby referee T.J. Luxmore.
On Sunday, an injury to linesman Steve Barton mean that standby ref Garrett Rank took the ice, working the lines for the first time in years.
Luxmore has been an NHL referee since 2013. His last game as linesman may have come in his OHL officiating days before he made the move to refereeing. Similarly, Rank, in the league since 2015, has likely not worked the lines for quite some time.
Both stepped into their unexpected assignments admirably.
Rank was put on the hot seat Sunday, handling the blue line as the Columbus Blue Jackets entered the zone on the eventual overtime game-winner. The call was reviewed by Hockey Ops, who confirmed that Rank made the right call. The play was onside; good goal Columbus.
There was a time when standby officials were merely required to be in the building. Now, they have to be in the officials’ room, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“If you’re standby now, you have to sit in the room. You’re supposed to have your skates on in case someone gets injured,” said retired linesman Ray Scapinello.
Years ago, Ron Asselstine was the standby official in a playoff game. My old buddy, linesman Pat “Dapper” Dapuzzo, got injured and had to exit the game. As was customary in those days, Ron was in his street clothes up in the press box. Before he could enter the game, Asselstine had to hurry down to officials’ room, change into his uniform and then walk out to the ice.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was not pleased by the lengthy delay and ordered a change in the procedure. From then on, standby officials were expected to dressed in full uniform — minus their skates, of course — and to be near the rink to minimize the delay.
Nice work by Garrett Rank and TJ Luxmore, and a good reminder to the rest of the officials on standby. You never know when you’ll be called into action – and whether you’ll need to work the lines.