TORONTO – It was one final assignment that Ray Scapinello wouldn’t have missed for the world.
The former NHL linesman was a member the Hockey Hall of Fame’s class of 2008 that officially took its place with the legends of the game on Monday. And he couldn’t have been happier.
Standing in the grand hall where the league’s trophies are displayed, he flipped a puck in his hands while scanning the room and trying to absorb all of the history.
“Look at this place, it puts a smile on your face,” the Guelph, Ont., native said after receiving his official Hall of Fame ring. “This place is gorgeous.”
It was that kind of positive attitude that always made Scapinello stand out more than most NHL linesman. He became known for the quick, choppy skating strides he’d take while retrieving an iced puck and the kind of smile that made it look like he had the best job in the world.
Joining him in the Hall on Monday were former Oilers winger Glenn Anderson, former Russian star Igor Larionov and and late junior hockey builder Ed Chynoweth.
Scapinello began his career as an NHL linesman in 1971 and retired 33 years later. In the meantime, he never missed an assignment and worked almost 3,000 career games – 2,508 in the regular season, 426 in playoffs.
The closest he came to missing a game was when a delayed flight kept him from arriving to an Islanders game on Long Island until the first period had already started. Richard Trottier filled in for part of the period before he and Scapinello changed on the fly.
Otherwise, he was on the ice at the start of the other 2,933 games he was scheduled to work – although not always for the full 60 minutes.
“I’ve done countless games where I’ve been drilled with the puck,” said Scapinello. “I worked in Toronto and picked up 14 stitches. (They) stitch you up, open the door and you go back out.
“My dad was 87 years old and never missed a day’s work. It was in the genes.”
Scapinello began refereeing in Guelph and made his way to the NHL through a rookie camp. His first season was 1971-72 and his only goal was to get hired again the next year.
One of Scapinello’s greatest pleasures over the years was getting to know the various people in the game. He always took the job seriously but wasn’t afraid to tell the odd joke on the ice.
“Hockey players are the funniest guys in the world,” said Scapinello. “They have the one-liners I don’t know where they come up, they’re brilliant. They are a great group of people to be around.
“I don’t know what it is.”
He officially retired after working Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final in 2004 and says he’ll probably miss being on the ice for the rest of his life.
His career included many highlights – everything from working Stanley Cup final games to being a linesman at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano to getting asked to officiate fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Igor Larionov’s farewell charity game in Moscow.
Hall of Fame weekend was simply the icing on the cake.
Scapinello had dinner with friends and family at a Toronto restaurant on Sunday night and helped bring everything to a standstill when the Stanley Cup showed up. The good times continued a day later when he became the 15th NHL official enshrined in the Hall.
“This is the ultimate honour,” he said.