Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulstewart22
Hockey is a business. However, when you are out on the ice chasing the puck, the business side of the game is the last thing on your mind. Anyone who believes the game is just a glorified ATM — whether on the playing, coaching, officiating or administrative end — is in the wrong line of work.
When I signed my first pro hockey contract with the Binghamton Dusters in 1975, I got $250 per week. After taxes, the amount came to $187.63. I also paid $100 a month for a hotel room at The SkylarK Motel in Vestal, $100 a month for the 1973 Plymouth Duster I had to rent. In terms of living expenses, I bought meals at the Skylark Diner out front of some NoTell Motel, a few odds and ends every once in a while at The Johnson City Mall, a few beers at Tom and Marty’s. Oh, yeah, and those awful Vinny Barbarino or Tony Manero duds everyone was styling in.
When all was said and done, I cleared next to nothing. That was fine by me. I wasn’t into it for the money. I got a chance to prove myself as a hockey player, get to the next level and then the next. Finally, I got to play in the WHA and, at long last, the NHL as a player.
In 1983, I started at the bottom again ib my new career path as an official. I reffed kids games at Falmouth Arena for $5 with my old friend Pat Twohig and Terry Kirby. Eventually, after driving an AMC Gremlin for 100,000 miles all over the eastern seaboard, paying $1 per gallon at Hess, eating at Burger King, McDonald’s and Dominoes or the truck stop on the NY State Thruway in -12 weather, I made it back to the NHL as a referee.
Nowadays, yes I admit, I am aware that the end is a lot closer than the beginning and my needs have changed. I have two kids, a wife, a three-pound Yorkie and six pounds worth of Yorkie /Chihuahua. My only real leisure indulgence is a little golf at Hyport Club and my small house on the Cape.
My dad, Bill Stewart Jr., used to ask me, “How many steaks can you eat off of one plate? How many steaks do you need?”
After a lifetime in hockey, I finally have an answer:I need just exactly what I have earned. Personally, I don’t need the steak. Watching my family eat the steak on their plate is good enough for me. Besides, I had to give up eating red meat years ago. As for myself, I’ll take the salad, maybe a bit of seafood and perhaps splurge now and then with a slice of pizza or a single glass of Chianti.
My needs are simple: Support my family, find a place to keep myself skating and give me a chance to make a difference and I am a happy man.
************ 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, while also maintaining 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.
Stewart is currently working with a co-author on an autobiography.This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.