This past weekend, my best friend, Terry Johnson, passed away. Terry hailed from Kitchener, Ont. He used to drive me around and attended every game I refereed in Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo and Ottawa.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the times I had with Terry. One time, we drove in a blizzard for a night game in Buffalo.
It took us six hours in white out conditions just from the Skyway in Hamilton. We went across the Peace Bridge going down the wrong lane.
Thankfully, all the customs guys at the border knew my brother. They recognized me as I waved my NHL referee sweater at them, and we were allowed in through a station that was closed. The customs agent hollered at me, “Just take it easy on the Sabres tonight, OK?” and then directed us through to expedite our way over the border.
As we got close to the area, I realized that I wouldn’t have time to get dressed in my uniform at the arena… and that was assuming we even got there in time. I started to get a little nervous. I dressed in the Datsun 240Z — which wasn’t easy — and hustled into the arena.
I put my skates on the zamboni pit as the national anthem singer performed the Star Spangled Banner. I finished and stepped out onto the ice just as the singer reached “and the hoooome… of the…. braaaaave”.
Other than my fellow officials and Terry, the only one who was aware of what happened was former Sabres player Danny Gare, who was doing a pregame TV segment in the pit area.
****** Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).
The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.
In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.