Star ref asked to reconsider retirement

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

Careers are winding down for a number of veteran NHL officials in the next couple of weeks, but it looks like the retirement party for one will be put on hold.

Referee Bill McCreary, a 26-year-veteran, was to work his last NHL game Saturday in Toronto, but has been asked by the NHL to reconsider his retirement to work next season, according to sources. Apparently more games have been added to his schedule beyond Saturday.

McCreary told the QMI Agency Monday no final decision on his future has been made.

Having McCreary return would be good news for the league since he remains one of the NHL’s most respected officials, both among his peers and league personnel, and is still capable of doing the job at the highest level.

The 54-year-old worked the gold medal game at the Olympics.

Kerry Fraser, the NHL’s most experienced referee, will work his last game in his 30-year career next week and Dan Marouelli is expected to conclude his 25-year career - the Edmonton native worked his first game in November, 1984 - a week from Saturday.

Also expected to step down after this season are linesmen Mark Pare, who has been working the lines since 1979 and has worked more than 2,100 games, and Lyle Seitz, an 18-year official.

• • •

Interesting timing to see the name of Canadian billionaire David Thomson and the city of Winnipeg come up in connection with the Coyotes in the Phoenix business press Monday.

That was on the eve of Glendale city’s council reviewing a couple of lease proposals from prospective owners Ice Edge Holdings and one from Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf Tuesday. The Ice Edge deal is on its last legs, according to NHL insiders, with the Ice Edge financing remaining a big question mark. To be fair, the Ice Edge principals have said their financing is contingent on getting a favourable lease arrangement.

Both Ice Edge and Reinsdorf are looking for mult-million dollar concessions from Glendale on a new lease for the Coyotes. The Ice Edge group was apparently looking for about $15 million in annual concessions and Reinsdorf, when he was last kicking the Coyotes’ tires, wanted a sweeter deal by better than $20 million a year.

The Phoenix Business Journal, quoting sources familiar with the Coyotes financial situation, said a deal between Thomson and the NHL had been completed in principle to sell the Coyotes to Thomson and have them return to play in Winnipeg next year if it is not possible to find owners willing to keep the team in the desert.

Thomson, the chairman of Thomson Reuters (the Thomson family’s fortune is estimated north of $25 billion), is a partner in True North Sports and Entertainment which owns the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and the 15,100-seat MTS Centre.

It remains to be seen if the timing of the Thomson report will put pressure on Glendale’s city council to reach an agreement with an owner committed to keeping the team in the Phoenix area.

• • •

The Detroit Red Wings are the hottest team in the league with five wins in a row and an 11-2-1 record since the Olympic break.

The key for the Wings has been getting healthy and finally having two offensive lines. Going into Friday night the Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Todd Bertuzzi line had combined for 10 goals and 10 assists in three games.

They weren’t a factor in a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Wild Friday, but the Johan Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom line sure was with seven points in the game.

Saturday night, rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard came up with a shutout in a 1-0 shootout win over Nashville.

The top teams in the West are watching with great interest where the Wings are going to wind up. Finishing third or fourth in the conference might not be any bonus this year.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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