Ray Scapinello was the NHLâ€™s most recognizable official when he retired in June 2004 after 33 seasons as a linesman. His career included the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, 20 Stanley Cup Finals, 2,500 regular season games, and 426 playoff games. Ray sat down with HockeyRefs.com in February 2005.
HockeyRefs.com: When and where were you born?
Scapinello: I was born on November 5, 1946 in Guelph, Ontario.
HockeyRefs.com: Are you married?
Scapinello: Yes, I am married to Maureen and together we have a son, Ryan.
HockeyRefs.com: Why did you start to officiate?
Scapinello: After playing junior I wanted to remain apart of the game and realized that officiating would give me that opportunity.
HockeyRefs.com: What made you become a linesman and not a referee?
Scapinello: After starting out on the lines in major junior and the OHA, I never switched because I was progressing through the ranks as a linesman.
HockeyRefs.com: What leagues did you work on your way up to the top?
Scapinello: Besides working all levels of junior in the OHA, I officiated the AHL and Senior A.
HockeyRefs.com: You have worked in so many great arenas. Do you have a favourite one?
Scapinello: My favourite was the old Chicago Stadium. It was a very loud small arena, which gave it a great atmosphere.
HockeyRefs.com: What was it like officiating at the 1998 Winter Olympics and how was it different than officiating a NHL game?
Scapinello: I enjoyed the excitement and the fact that I was part of the â€œNHL invasionâ€ into the Olympics. It was far more intense than a NHL game and the atmosphere was very different. Itâ€™s such an honour to represent your country.
HockeyRefs.com: What made you decide to retire at the end of the 2003-2004 season?
Scapinello: I had 33 great years officiating 2,500 regular season games. The contract dispute between the NHL and NHLPA also influenced my decision.
HockeyRefs.com: It had to be pretty awesome to go out working the Stanley Cup Final?
Scapinello: It was always a thrill to the finals. Every official works towards making it there and I had the privilege of working 20 different Stanley Cup Finals.
HockeyRefs.com: You worked so many games and yet never missed one. How did you manage to keep going all those years?
Scapinello: I had a slogan that every day was game day. I would eat/workout and mentally prepare day in and day out, which allowed me to never miss an assignment due to injury or illness. That doesnâ€™t mean I was never sick or injured â€“ I was just in excellent shape â€“ mentally and physically â€“ to handle the situation.
HockeyRefs.com: Was it hard not going to training camp in September?
Scapinello: I am still working out like I was. I decided to get involved as a supervisor in the OHA this season to give a little back to the game.
HockeyRefs.com: There have been rumours in recent months about NHL teams looking to hire former referees as officiating consultants. Would you ever consider something like this?
Scapinello: I havenâ€™t ruled anything out. But, right now I am focusing on my golf game, my family, and relaxing.
HockeyRefs.com: What do you think of the two referee system?
Scapinello: It has changed the amount of the stick work behind the play and forced teams to work harder on playing instead of clutching and grabbing.
HockeyRefs.com: Would you make any rule changes?
Scapinello: No. I think the teams are best suited to make rule changes after consulting with all involved on possible implications.
HockeyRefs.com: How has officiating changed from when you started?
Scapinello: The lifestyle, salary, and travel have all changed. When I started we lived on the road for 14 plus days and now we wonâ€™t spend more than 10 days away from home. The pay is much better so we donâ€™t need part-time jobs. The planes are also much quicker and we now travel first class on longer flights. Also, the league used to be smaller which allowed you know most of the coaches, players, rink attendants, trainers, etc.
HockeyRefs.com: Do feel the game has changed for the better over time or has it become too much entertainment and not enough sport?
Scapinello: The game is a business, plain and simple. The fans are our customers.
HockeyRefs.com: Do you prefer name or number plates and how did you pick your current number?
Scapinello: It doesnâ€™t really matter to me. Iâ€™ve worn five different numbers and a nameplate. I picked my last number (53) because it was available.
HockeyRefs.com: What advice would you give an aspiring young official?
Scapinello: Work hard, have a dream and always hustle â€“ good things come to those who wait for them!