Retired NHL player and referee Paul Stewart wrote a column for the Huffington Post that sheds some light on the relationship referees have with NHL players and coaches.
Stewart goes into detail about some of the altercations he got into with players during his tenure as a referee in the NHL.
“There are some players and coaches that officials get along with better than others,” Stewart wrote. “[Former Flyer] Eric Lindros was a player I got off with on the wrong foot and we never developed a rapport because neither he nor I wanted one.”
Stewart then lays out the scene of a Flyers-Devils game he worked at the Spectrum during Lindros’ rookie season. The refs were waiting to be told the broadcast returned from commercial and it was OK to drop the opening faceoff. To kill time, Stewart started talking with some of the players.
Lindros, it appears, was not feeling very chatty. When Stewart asked Lindros how things were going and how the youngster's dad was, the 19-year-old responded, "[Expletive] you. Just drop the [expletive] puck already."
The full story, in Stewart's words:
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.