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Today’s blog is dedicated to the memory of Milton LeBlanc, my friend from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Milton passed away today after battling cancer, leaving an unfillable empty berth on the marina.
Before hearing about Milton, I had been having stress headaches for about two weeks. It started with watching games where the referees officiated out of fear and called everything under the sun.
It lingered with some of the stupidity I deal with in particularly small people who have been coddled into believing they are special and can push others around at their whims.
I go to a game every night as part of my job. Last night, I saw Jokerit Helsinki play Atlant in the KHL. The game was a 2-2 tie with under a minute left. There was a hooking call with ten seconds to go against Atlant, then in OT a legitimate high stick busts up a guy’s face. Of course, Jokerit pulls their goalie on the delay and then scores on the power play and the crowd goes home, well, pissed.
The hooking infraction was a borderline one. Under the narrowest of definitions, yeah, it was penalty but was one that really needed to be called? Did he let something more clear-cut go earlier in the game; a roughing, a slash, a “small” interference? If it was a penalty in the third in a 2-2 game, was it a penalty in the first?
Yeah, now you see why I get a headache.
Atlant is Val Kaminsky’s team. Jokerit is managed by Jari Kurri. I realized not too long ago, I was on the ice with both of those guys for nearly 20 years. This summer, I met with Kurri in Helsinki. It was the first time we’d ever talked hockey with each other. Actually, it may have the first time we’d ever talked except for a quick hello. Jari minded his own business and went about his routine, and left me to mine. What shined through was his class and dignity.
Same thing with Val. He sure was one great player for the Soviets in the 1987 Canada Cup. Kamensky scored the fifth goal in Game Two then came to the NHL and showed everyone what a clean-playing power forward could look like. I never heard him bitch once about a call. What’s more, you want to talk about smart? This was one smart player; hockey sense to spare.
Anyway, the next stop on my itinerary took me to Yaroslavl to see a Lokomotiv game against Dynamo Moscow. Dave King is back behind the bench for Yaroslavl. His team wins — two in a row for Dave’s team. In this game, there no issues, no problems, no lingering headache.
I did want to mention two other things. Tomorrow, I will post some pictures of The Memorial here and the faces of all those that died in the plane crash a few years ago. It makes me stop and think.
That brings me back to Milton LeBlanc. My friend was an avid fisherman, loved hockey. Just a good guy, good husband, and devoted father. His wife, Jackie, hails from Massachusetts. They named their three kids — all boys — with names that start with the letter J. Milton named his boat the Four J’s in honor of his family.
When I found out about Milton’s prognosis, I told his son to lean in and tell him, “Stewy said to tell you you made the best damn seafood chowder he’s ever had, and your beer was always cold, so thank you.”
I hope that made Milton smile, because he never failed to make me smile. He used to take me out on his boat and whatever he pulled aboard went into the pot for our meal afterwards: lobster, crab, dogfish, sea cucumbers, scallops, haddock, cod. Added some celery, PEI Potatoes, condensed milk, salt, pepper and cooked it all on the boat as we were out pulling his pots.
The folks in heaven are going to eat very well now, because Milton is sure to share with everyone he meets. Safe Journey, Mon Ami!
You know, somehow, my headache isn’t so bad now that I think about it. I will forever smile when I think of Milton.
************ 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 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.
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.