TORONTO - With 590 penalty minutes in 430 NHL games and around 500 minutes in junior, Dion Phaneuf knows the way to the box and has chirped a lot to referees en route.
But some improved public relations is in order for the new Maple Leaf captain, who will have to contain his temper a lot more in his role of dealing with the zebras.
“I hope the officials like me,” Phaneuf said with mock innocence at his Monday news conference. “But I think I have a good relationship with them. To be honest, (being captain) won’t change the way I play or prepare for a game. It’s just a letter on the front of the jersey. I want to take pride in being one of the hardest working guys and lead our team to a championship.”
Phaneuf agreed he must “brush up” on the thick NHL rulebook to be ready for any twists arising in a game and any conferences at the timer’s bench, but coach Ron Wilson said he prefers fighting his own battles with the officials.
“Every argument you see with a referee is the captain representing the coach, when most coaches in the league would rather have the ref come to the bench,” Wilson said. “We’re the only sport that actually needs a go-between to have communication with the ref. Some of the best drama in all the other sports is a sideline tirade from a coach, with an official right there, or a baseball manager coming out. In hockey we don’t have that access.
“(Sometimes) the captain doesn’t quite understand the coach and goes over to the ref and tells him a bit different story. The answer that comes back to you doesn’t make any sense. So the referee comes back to the bench and you end up taking your pound of flesh from him anyway.”