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.

Panthers officially add Chris Pronger to front office

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Earlier this month, it was reported that the Florida Panthers were talking to Chris Pronger about joining their front office.

Exactly three weeks later, the Panthers confirmed the move during a conference call with GM Dale Tallon.

Dan Murphy of Sportsnet is reporting that Pronger’s official title will be “senior adviser to the president of hockey operations”. So basically, he’ll be working closely with Tallon.

Pronger has been with the NHL’s Department of Players Safety since the start of the 2014 season.

“Chris has spent the last three years working for the League’s Department of Player Safety and is ready to move into a more competitive, executive role,” Tallon said in a release. “One of the most dominant defensemen of his era, Chris’ winning resume and wealth of hockey knowledge will be a great asset to our hockey club. We’re thrilled that he has chosen to join the Panthers organization.”

The 42-year-old is now free to join a team because his last player contract has (finally) expired, and he’s no longer on anyone’s payroll.

This move is hardly surprising considering Pronger has already mentioned on numerous occasions that he’d like to be a general manager one day.

Plenty of trade chatter now that freeze is over

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The NHL trade freeze officially ended at 8:00 a.m. ET on Thursday morning, but we haven’t officially seen any moves. Still, expect some transactions to go down in the very near future.

According to TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie, there are a few specific names that might find themselves in new cities sooner than later.

Per McKenzie, the Carolina Hurricanes are very interested in new Golden Knights defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who they acquired from Chicago during the expansion draft.

The former Blackhawk is 25 years old, and he had 16 points and 29 penalty minutes in 58 games during the 2016-17 season.

McKenzie also mentioned the strong possibility of the Oilers dealing Jordan Eberle at some point, but he also added that a deal isn’t necessarily close. A trade could occur on Friday.

Eberle had 20 goals and 51 points in 82 games, but he was nowhere to be seen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as he had two assists and a minus-6 rating in 13 games.

The fact that Eberle comes with a cap hit of $6 million doesn’t help his odds of sticking around in Edmonton. After all, they’ll need all the cap space they can get for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s extensions.

For over a week now, the Minnesota Wild have been at the front of the line when it comes to trade rumors. The Wild have bodies they can move on the blue line, as they were able to keep Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin away from Vegas.

Now, it sounds like Scandella may be the player most likely to move in the next little while.

Going back to McKenzie’s Twitter timeline, he suggests that Brodin is the player they least want to part ways with, while Scandella is the one most likely to be dealt.

The Arizona Coyotes have already made some noise this week. They traded for Nick Cousins, moved Mike Smith to Calgary and parted ways with Shane Doan. But TSN’s Darren Dreger believes there will be more movement in the desert.

Now all we need is for two teams (or more) to pull the trigger!

PHT Morning Skate: Expansion draft winners and losers

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–As you’ve probably heard, the Vegas Golden Knights put their roster together last night. The Score looks at three takeaways from their initial roster. Landing Nikita Gusev from Tampa Bay was a nice acquisition for GM George McPhee. (The Score)

–Sportsnet’s Luke Fox put together his observations of last night’s NHL Awards ceremony. Mike Babcock just can’t buy a Jack Adams Award, Connor McDavid left with a lot of hardware and actor Jacob Tremblay took a little shot at the Canucks. (Sportsnet)

–Sean McIndoe looks at the five best goalies that have ever been exposed in an expansion draft (prior to last night). People forget, but the Sabres left Dominik Hasek unprotected in the early 90s, but the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers opted not to select him. (The Hockey News)

–Former hockey player Denna Laing suffered a devastating injury on the ice that left her paralyzed. Yesterday, she had the honor of presenting an award and getting a standing ovation. (NBC Sports)

–Some teams took a major hit in the Vegas expansion draft, while other teams made out just fine. The Washington Post breaks down the winners and losers of last night’s expansion draft. It was a pretty tough night for the Panthers and Islanders. (Washington Post)

–Sportsnet did a great feature on top draft prospect Nolan Patrick. Here’s a look at how Patrick became the player he is today:

Vegas has 15 d-men, but won’t keep them all

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The Vegas Golden Knights suddenly have 15 defensemen.

Just don’t expect all 15 to remain Knights for long.

“We’re going to have to move some defensemen,” general manager George McPhee said Tuesday, “because we’re going to claim a bunch.”

So, who might get flipped?

Well, a highly touted youngster like Shea Theodore, acquired in a trade with Anaheim, is unlikely to go. Theodore, 21, could be a core member of the Knights for years to come.

Deryk Engelland probably won’t be going anywhere either. He just signed a one-year contract with the Knights, and he already has ties to Sin City.

But a 32-year-old like Marc Methot? He could be dealt. The Dallas Stars are reportedly quite interested.

A few others could be on the move, too, but we’ll have to wait to find out which ones.

Here’s the full list of d-men that officially became Vegas property today:

Jake Bischoff
Deryk Engelland
Alexei Emelin
Jason Garrison
Brayden McNabb
Jon Merrill
Marc Methot
Colin Miller
Luca Sbisa
David Schlemko
Griffin Reinhart
Nate Schmidt
Clayton Stoner
Shea Theodore
Trevor van Riemsdyk