Blue Jackets fans say ref gave them the finger, made ‘crying gesture’

It’s tough not to sympathize with NHL referees sometimes. Sure, it’s frustrating when they make a marginal or downright incorrect call – especially when it’s against your team, which clearly makes that guy a conspirator – but it’s a thankless job that must be harder than it looks to outsiders.

Still, those men in striped uniforms are human, after all. Sometimes they hold foolish grudges against players (allegedly), getting in gambling trouble like the NBA’s Tim Donaghy or even get into spats with fans. Sometimes heckling can get under your skin, and if Blue Jackets fans are telling the truth, that’s exactly what happened last night.

Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Post-Dispatch reports that Blue Jackets fans in section 109 claim NHL referee Paul Devorski made a “scratching motion” on his chin with his middle finger* and a crying gesture toward them during the third period of Monday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. The fans had been giving Devorski “grief” for what they felt was a missed high sticking call.

* – I prefer the forehead scratch, personally, but to each his own.

Portzline writes that 15 fans informed the newspaper regarding the situation via e-mail or Twitter. Devorski denied the claims, NHL director of officiating Terry Gregson said the league is investigating the matter and head disciplinarian Colin Campbell provided no comment regarding the incident.

Apparently fans were “on edge” all night, in part because the Wild received seven power play opportunities while the Blue Jackets had none.

“Two guys in front of us started giving the refs (grief) after they clearly missed a call,” said Ritter Hoy, who was seated five rows up from the glass in section 109. “Happens at every game, right?

“Well, the No. 10 official put his fingers up and rubbed his eyes and made a crying face, like ‘what are you going to do, cry?’ They started giving him more (grief) and he put his middle finger up to his chin and acted like he was scratching his face. It was very, very blatant. The whole section saw it and went crazy.”

No. 10 is Devorski, a 21-year NHL official who is one of the most respected officials in the business. Devorski has worked Stanley Cups since the 2001 season and the last two Olympics, including the bronze medal game in 2010 and the gold medal game in 2006. This would seem out of his character.

The crowd’s reaction last night was audible, even from the press box. I heard it and so did the two traveling writers who cover the Wild, but the reason for the disturbance was not immediately clear. Fans were on edge most of the night, because the Wild had seven power plays, while the Blue Jackets had none.

My guess is that nothing much beyond a funny story will likely come out of this, but if something does happen – from a fine, suspension or other discipline via the league – we’ll let you know.

If nothing else, it’s a testament to the fine art of heckling. Well done, Section 109.

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier
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Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench, and that’s only counting what the Flyers are paying Gagner.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.

Video: NHL drops hammer, suspends Torres for 41 games


One of the NHL’s most notorious hitters has been tagged by the league.

On Monday, the Department of Player Safety announced that San Jose forward Raffi Torres has been suspended 41 games — half of the regular season — for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The length of Torres’ suspension is a combination of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ history of delivering hits to the heads of opposing players, including Jordan Eberle, Jarret Stoll, Nate Prosser and Marian Hossa.

“Torres has repeatedly violated league playing rules,” the Department of Player Safety explained. “And has been sanctioned multiple times for similar infractions.”

The league also noted that Torres has been warned, fined, or suspended on nine occasions over the course of his career, “the majority of which have involved a hit to an opponent’s head.”

“Same player every year,” Ducks forward Ryan Kesler said following the hit on Silfverberg. “I played with the guy [in Vancouver]. He needs to learn how to hit. That has no part in our game anymore.”

As for what lies ahead, things could get interesting upon potential appeal:

Torres successfully appealed a suspension under the previous CBA, getting his punishment for the Hossa hit reduced from 25 to 21 games.

Under terms of the new CBA, Torres isn’t categorized as a repeat offender because his last suspension came in May of 2013 — more than two years ago.

Of course, part of the reason Torres hasn’t run afoul of the league in two years is because he’s barely played.

Knee injuries limited Torres to just 12 games in ’13-14, and he sat out last season entirely.