Changing Sides


Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulstewart22

Whenever people ask me how I find the time to write all these blogs for HockeyBuzz with my busy schedule, I tell them the answer is simple. I travel a lot. Yes, I stay extremely busy with games, reports, tape reviews and meetings both with the KHL circuit and ECAC but I am also alone at hotels or my apartment in Moscow frequently.

Writing is cathartic. It is also enjoyable to get the chance to interact with hockey fans; something I always loved doing as both a player and referee.

Keep those private message and message board comments and questions coming, HockeyBuzz readers! I respond to as many of them as time permits. Many of your questions make good fodder for blog topics. Recently, a HockeyBuzz reader sent me this query: “Stewy, I always enjoy reading your posts and have a couple of questions about officiating that I’m sure you can answer.

Is there a specific reason or queue as to which linesman drops a face-off? It can never seem to determine which linesmen is going to drop the puck after an icing or offsides call.

Do referees switch ends of ice during play or stoppages in play during a period. If so, why is this done?”

In regard to the question, linesmen work various styles in each league. In the KHL, the linesman who picks up the puck for icing goes down to where his partner is indicating the faceoff would be and then he drops the puck, his partner goes out to the blue line and gets position to watch for encroachment. After the puck drop, his partner on the line, holds that line and the dropper escapes and goes out past the blue line to take up the red line and far blue line duty.

Over in Russia, we have adopted the “I-95” system that longtime NHL linesman Kevin Collins and Gord Broeseker developed. It’s a sort of a push/pull or swapping of responsibilities for that one line and escaping for safety sake into the zone or into the bench area or back to the red line. The partner linesman on the far side then slides up and takes that line duty. The name I-95 refers to the heavily traveled interstate in the eastern United States; you are going north while your partner linesman goes south.

In ECAC, we have the high linesman after an icing go to the bench area with the high or R2 referee to make certain that the correct players are staying on the ice, and there’s no “sneaky” personnel changes pulled off by the offending team. The linesman who retrieves the puck then makes the drop in the faceoff circle.

After goals, the linesmen line up so they are not in front of nor on the same side as the team that was just scored upon. This is just self-preservation and common sense. Why get spit on or yelled at by frustrated players?

On offside plays, the linesman that makes the call goes to the dot or back to center dot or the far dots, depending where the pass originated from or where the player went offside. His partner gets the puck and they can hand off or stay as is.

Personal anecdote: I once worked as an emergency linesman in a playoff game in Pitt one night after Wayne Bonney got hurt. I had been designated that year as Stanley Standby. It was a punitive measure taken against me by the NHL officiating director the year I went over his head to get the assignment to work the “last game” at Boston Garden.

As a cover reason, My boss told me i was “out of shape,” and thereby not qualified to work the playoffs. If anyone was ever able to talk with knowledge on that subject, I was very much in shape and the guy who sent me home was the one who was out of shape

At any rate, Wayne came hobbling down the hallway and I walked from the Officials’ dressing room to meet him and take his linesman’s sweater. I pulled it on while still in the tunnel, and realized the TV cameras were on my and my face was on the jumbotron.

Sorry, Gary, but even without a nameplate or the number 22 on it or even a ref sweater itself, the fans in Pittsburgh recognized me instantly. They gave me the best “Bronx Cheer” that I ever got. I think they don’t like polyester sweaters..what do you think?

In regard to the second question, referees are supposed to switch ends at the TV timeouts. With a penalty call, the ref who called it goes deep into that zone where the drop will be.

Personally, I used to like to work the end that had highest incline. Skating downhill was always easier for me (haha!).

************ 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. This post originally appeared on and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.