Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Telling the Storey

Red Storey
 Yesterday, I wrote about linesman George Hayes and his departure from the National Hockey League in 1965. Perhaps, the most sensational and controversial departure by an official from the NHL came in 1959. The referee in the spotlight was Red Storey.

In the 1959 semi-finals, the Montreal Canadiens faced the Chicago Black Hawks. Going into the 6th game on April 4, 1959, in Chicago Stadium, the Habs lead the series 3-2. A loss, would result in Chicago being eliminated from post-season action. With under 2 minutes remaining in the third period, the game was tied 4-4.

In his autobiography - Red's Storey - he explains what happened next.

With just under two minutes left, Bobby Hull was flying down left wing and, as he got to the blue line and made his cut, Junior Langlois nailed him with a great bodycheck...Once again the Hawks were looking at me for the penalty call...But  they were waiting again for me to blow the whistle and this time while they were waiting, Claude Provost went down and scored, giving the Canadiens the lead.
 The game was over for Chicago. The season was over...And these Chicago fans started to throw stuff - 18 bottles by one estimate, as well as papers, cans, programs, decks of cards, rubbers, cushions, a chair, parts of seats and anything else that wasn't nailed down. I skated to the centre ice circle so that anyone who hoped to hit me was going to need a good arm. Then, suddenly, I heard somebody yell "Look out!" I turned around and a fan was coming across the ice at me. He threw one of those plastic cups full of beer right in my face. I grabbed him.

With the help of Doug Harvey, Storey fended off 2 attackers who jumped onto the ice and headed straight for him. Harvey didn't hesitate to use his stick as a weapon and this assisted in keeping other fans at bay. After a 30 minute delay, the contest resumed, but that wasn't the end of the difficulties faced by Storey. While leaving for the officials room, Storey had objects thrown at him and further attempts were made to physically assault him. Luckily, he was carrying a hockey stick passed to him by Danny Lewicki of the Hawks.

You would think the threat against his career would have evaporated once he escaped from Chicago Stadium that night. However, that wasn't the case. Criticism from NHL President Clarence Campbell began to pop-up in the press. Following the Saturday evening Hawks/Canadiens game, Storey travelled to Boston for his next assignment. He was scheduled to referee game 7 of the Bruins and Leafs series to determine Montreal's opponent in the finals. In Boston, Storey read headlines which only added fuel to the fire - CAMPBELL SAYS STOREY CHOCKED and NHL PREXY SAYS STOREY CHICKEN.

With his character being called into question, and a game to call that night (April 7, 1959), Storey took his stand against the National Hockey League. Following Campbell's process of criticizing him in the press, Storey decided to travel the same route. At 8:00am, Storey contacted several members of the press and told them he was quitting. While the Leafs and Bruins were going to battle at Boston Garden, Red Storey was in flight back to his home in Montreal.

Of interest, one of the linesmen working the game in Chicago that eventful night was none other than George Hayes.

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