TAMPA -- Seldom is heard anything but the disparaging word when it comes to officials in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But then there's Ray Scapinello.
The 57-year-old linesman who will work Game 2 tonight, his 51st Stanley Cup finals game in his 20th appearance as a linesman in the finals, will retire at the end of this Stanley Cup season.
Darryl Sutter's eyes lit up when somebody asked him about the official who will retire at the end of this Stanley season.
"He can still fly," said the Calgary Flames coach. "He's still the fastest guy out there. He's still a colourful guy.
"He identifies with his players. He knows everybody's first names. He's a throwback. He's one of the few throwback officials that come in and straighten a lot of things out by just coming over to the bench and telling somebody. 'Hey, you know, you shouldn't do this.' Guys respect him for that.
"That's how it used to be. You know everybody by their first name and a lot of control was done between whistles just by one of the officials talking to you. That's how Scamp is. And he's still a great athlete, the little bugger, geez! He's twice as old, more than twice as old, than a lot of young linesmen. This has to be pretty special for him."
It is pretty special, says the old zebra.
"I can't tell you how honoured I am to be picked, to be honest with you. The last three seasons I was only working the conference finals. I've always done it for the love of the game more than the money. Like the teams start the season trying to make the finals, I always started the season trying to make the finals. I just decided it was time to move on."
Scapinello came into the league the same year as Andy VanHellemond, the guy who is now his boss.
"I guess the thing I'm most proud of is that I never missed a game. I came into the league in '71 with Andy when there was a staff of 15 guys. Now we have 86.
"It was nice of Andy to stop me at exactly 2,500 regular-season games on the final Friday of the season. I think the most that had been done before was 1,900-and-some-odd games. To get 2,500 right on the button was great."
He worked his 420th playoff game here in Game 7 of the Philadelphia-Tampa series.
"In all those years, the Olympics, Canada Cups, World Cups, to have never missed a game. Looking back, I think is rather remarkable. I'm most proud of that."
Plenty of times, Scapinello has replaced an injured referee during a game.
"I remember doing a game in Buffalo one night. Dave Newell was injured really early in the game and I started refereeing. I called a penalty on Clarke Gillies of the Islanders. He was skating across the ice yelling at me that it wasn't a hook. Finally, I said, 'Listen, if you don't think it was a penalty, don't go in the box.' He gave me a stunned look and then quietly went into the penalty box.
"I had another game when I took over for an injured referee and I went over to the coaches and said, 'You know I don't know what I'm doing and I know I don't know what I'm doing, so don't give me a rough time.' They laughed at me. And one of them was Mike Keenan."
If he has one regret, Scapinello says it's that he didn't carry a notebook in his officials bag to jot down this and that over the years.
"These players say the funniest things to each other.
"My son was asking me the other day about some of the stories and I can't remember most of them.
"I do remember one involving two of the Sutter boys but I can't remember which ones. It was Chicago so one might have been Darryl. I think the twins were on the other team. I remember the one on Chicago saying, 'Get out of here or I'll kick the crap out of you like I do at home.' I loved those Sutter brothers. They were such hard-nosed hockey players. They showed up every night, all of them."
HE'LL MISS IT
Scapinello says he knows he's going to miss it.
"Sitting at home, it's going to be terrible. I've been doing it for 33 seasons. I'll miss it drastically.
"It's not bad now.
"I don't know which is going to be my last game. If it's a sweep, (tonight) will be my last game. I don't do Game 3 or 4."
He is scheduled, however, to work Game 5 and Game 6 if necessary.
"I'll tell you one thing, if I'm involved in the Cup-winning game, I'll be wrestling a player for the puck at the end of the game. I'll tell that player, 'I've got more seniority than you, damn it!' "
He's a 'Scamp' to the very end
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
, Last Updated: 3:12 PM ET