The Wrath of Manson

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b>Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulstewart22

As many of my readers know, I was never afraid to call a penalty shot when the rules dictated it. I called more than any other referee in the NHL over the course of my career. One season, there were 34 total penalty shots called in entire the League. I called 18 of them.

One of the most, um, interesting penalty shots I presided over was one taken by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Dave “Charlie” Manson against the Buffalo Sabres in a January 1991 game at Chicago Stadium. The hulking defenseman had quite the booming shot and quite the quick temper.

When he got his dander up, Manson could get borderline psychotic. The season previous to this game, Manson earned himself three suspensions from the NHL: twice for pushing aside linesmen to return to fights and once for biting Scott Stevens’ hand. One season after this game, he would suffer permanent damage to his voice — which became something between a growl and a raspy whisper — after taking a punch to the throat in a fight with Edmonton’s Sergio Momesso.

I was never intimidated by Manson (or any player) but there were some folks around the game who were terrified of him. Apart from his temper and mean streak, he had a scorching 100-mile-per-hour slap shot that wasn’t very accurate but could be unstoppable when he hit the mark.

On this night, the score was tied at 4-4 midway through the third period. The Hawks had led by a 4-2 score at one point before the momentum turned. Suddenly, Manson intercepted a puck and rushing it end-to-end himself right through the middle of the ice. He would have been home free had Buffalo’s Rick Vaive not dragged him down from behind. I signaled for a penalty shot.

Finesse was never “Charlie” Manson’s strong suit. Even before his penalty shot, I knew he wasn’t one for making fancy moves. Well, he didn’t make any moves at all. He simply skated in a straight line toward the slot and wound up slowly for a big slap shot with the hopes of simply overpowering the goaltender. If sweat made a sound, the sweat pouring down the neck of Sabres’ goalie Darcy Wakaluk would have pounded a drumbeat on the ice.

Manson’s blast thudded into Wakaluk’s pads and rebounded all the way out to center ice. Wakaluk breathed an audible sigh of relief.

The Blackhaws were disappointed that they didn’t get a go-ahead goal. More than that, though, they were scared of how Manson would react to not converting the attempt. I have never seen the seas part on the bench quite as quickly and as far apart as the Hawks’ bench did after Manson’s unsuccessful penalty shot! Everyone scattered and no one made eye contact or said a word. Even Chicago coach Mike Keenan didn’t dare go near Manson as returned to the bench. On the other side, the Buffalo bench made sure not to celebrate Wakaluk’s save too loudly.

Incidentally, Buffalo went on to win the game by a 5-4 count. The postgame locker room featuring a peeved Keenan, Manson, and Ed Belfour was not a real fun place to be after the Hawks lost a winnable game that ended a five-game winning streak.

As for myself, once the game was over, it was over. My officiating teammates and I simply showered, changed back into our civvies, exited the building and headed out onto Madison Street on our way to a Friday night out on the town in the Windy City. Who said being an official and having no stake in the outcome of a game doesn’t have its benefits?

****** 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.

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