Ray Scapinello

Ray ScampinelloThrough thirty-three years, Ray Scapinello was arguably the best known of all National Hockey League officials. Darting across the ice like an insect on a pond, Scapinello was easy to pick out – at 5’7”, he was dwarfed by the players that surrounded him and he did his job remarkably well without benefit of head protection. In 2008, he was rewarded for his exceptional service by being named an Honoured Member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Officials’ Category.

“In 1971, when I was hired by Scotty Morrison (NHL referee-in-chief), the last thing on my mind was the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Ray chuckles. “I just hoped I’d have a contract the following year! But I was lucky enough to officiate in the National Hockey League for 33 seasons, and in those years, I worked 2,500 league games, 426 playoff games and 20 consecutive years in the Stanley Cup Finals. The icing on the cake is that three years after retiring, I was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 It’s the ultimate honour to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I still have a smile on my face!”

There are all sorts of endurance records, but Ray’s NHL record must surely rank amongst the best. “During those 33 years, and it’s nothing more than luck, I never missed an assignment, whether it was weather-related or injury-related. I picked up my share of stitches, but during those years, I never put on a helmet. Don’t ask me why. My wife Maureen and son Ryan asked me to wear one countless times.”

Ray Scampinello Hockey Face offThe role of a linesman includes many tasks, including calling offsides and icings and facing off the puck, but it also involves separating combatants involved in fights. But when you’re 5’7”, getting between two behemoth enforcers should involve danger pay, and yet Scapinello never backed away from performing this duty. “There is a code among heavyweights like Bob Probert, Tie Domi and the like. As a linesman, you stand back and 99.9% of the time, they’ll stop on their own. You watch them and then ask, ‘Are you done?’ and they’d either back away or continue until they were tired out. I can’t ever remember a heavyweight taking a liberty with another heavyweight when he had him at a disadvantage. They’d just break and go to the penalty box. I admire them for that. That’s a tough way to make a living! You’re only as good as your last fight, and if you get your clock cleaned on Saturday night, you likely have to come back to redeem yourself on Sunday. Fights in hockey motivate teammates and if you’re not winning them, it can demoralize them as well. Separating the heavyweights was easy to do. The guys that aggravated you the most were the guys who didn’t fight much and they wanted to get in one last lick and just didn’t know when to stop.”

Scapinello is also known for his generosity, agreeing to help out a worthy cause whenever asked. In Ray’s eyes, it was a way to give back to the game he so loves. “It was nothing to play in 12 to 13 charity golf tournaments each summer,” he shrugs. “When you work into June and the Stanley Cup Finals and then off at golf tournaments, that’s more time not spent with family, but every charity is worthwhile and I loved every minute of it. It’s my upbringing. My wife and I are compassionate people.”

Ray ScampinelloWhen asked to participate in Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, there was no hesitation from the Hall of Famer. “If I can lend my name to raise another dollar for cancer, then I’ll be at the front of the line,” he states. “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t been touched by cancer. I lost my father to cancer, my wife’s sister Patty died from a brain tumor and her brother Doug is battling brain cancer right now and is doing extremely well. His daughter got married last year and he made a promise to her that he’d be there at the wedding and dance the father/daughter dance with her, and he did. And now, he’s back to work and so excited about feeling so well that he’s got his snowblower out and doing all of his neighbours’ driveways!”

But over the holidays, cancer once again touched the Scapinello family. “Good friends of ours Bob and Anne Marie Kennedy lost their 27-year-old daughter Tara on December 31, 2010. She was just the most beautiful and wonderful young lady you’d ever want to meet. I don’t know how they are finding the strength to handle this loss. When I am at Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, I am going to be wearing my linesman’s jersey and I’ll have an armband with Tara’s name and the date she passed away as a tribute to her.”

Cancer, sadly, is the great equalizer, and Ray’s former colleague, Paul Stewart, a longtime NHL referee, was diagnosed with cancer during his officiating career. “Paul handled his bout with cancer so gracefully. He is doing so well. He is now the Director of Officiating for ECAC Men’s Hockey. He has a beautiful wife and two beautiful boys and he’s 100% healthy. He is a massive supporter of this battle against cancer.”

Ray Scapinello was one of the celebrities available to be drafted by top fundraising teams during the inaugural Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer event on Saturday, October 1, 2011.  You want stories? Read his autobiography, ‘Between the Lines: Not-So-Tall Tales From Ray ‘Scampy’ Scapinello's Four Decades in the NHL.’

“In my 33 years, believe me, I’ve seen countless fights, but there’s nothing compared to the strength it takes to fight this disease. I admire the survivors and those going through the fight every day. Headway is being made but more money needs to be raised.”

For more information on Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, visit www.TeamUpToConquerCancer.ca or call 1-877-541-I’M IN (4646).

 

Reviewed: October 2013