Please welcome Matt Mistele of Toronto Truculent to the MLHS Blogging team. A really funny guy with sublime writing talent and hockey knowledge, we’re thrilled to have him.
Let’s begin this â€˜Confidential!â€™ piece with an outright disclaimer:
Kerry Fraser seems like a nice guy. A few epically blown calls aside, heâ€™s apparently well-liked by the players both personally and professionally â€“ voted the most consistent NHL referee by the players in a poll that happened in December 2005, according to this. The successes and unique accomplishments of this manâ€™s career vastly outweigh the failures on paper.
I was seven years old when â€œThe Callâ€ occurred. Personally, I’m over it. Might say, I’m even too young to care (the Blue Jays being awesome, helped). I really donâ€™t have much of a dog in the Kerry Fraser fight.
But this is a humour piece, and Kerry Fraser royally screwed the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans, and weâ€™ll be damned if thatâ€™s not worth parodying â€“ especially in light of the sentimental garbage published today under the guise of a response/rebuttal, merely 18 years after an explanation would have been useful, or worth anything.
I have obtained the internal TSN markup copy of Kerry Fraserâ€™s first draft response â€“ the one the public was never supposed to see. Text they outright removed, and text they kept, but rewrote both included.
No official wants to make or miss a call that has an impact on a game or a series. It becomes a bitter pill to swallow. Unless, of course, you can use the ensuing notoriety and ridiculous hair poof to present yourself as unique amongst the pool of forgettable, indistinguishable NHL referees and develop a personal brand that will later lead to publishing and TV analyst deals. Take that, Bill McReary!
On the 18th anniversary of the infamous “Missed Call,” for many a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I still canâ€™t walk into a Toronto bar without six or seven die hard Leaf junkies throwing a drink at me. A subway driver made eye contact with me on the Dundas platform amidst hundreds of commuters and literally did not stop the train. Some guy from Markham paid $44 shipping to UPS a 26 pound, dead raccoon to my house. the bitterness has never subsided.
Every year, right up to my final season as a referee in the NHL I was contacted by the media on this day and asked to explain what the hell else I could have possibly been looking at, besides Gretzky, Gilmour, and the puck in the middle of the damn ice rehash the play. They always ran with it and feelings were dredged up from old wounds that have never healed; especially from those that harbour hatred towards me. Iâ€™m going to be personally vague about whose feelings Iâ€™m referring to, since Iâ€™m implying that theyâ€™re yours but I need to set myself up as a victim in all of this for good reason, later in the article. I devoted an entire chapter in my book (coming out in updated paperback and e-book versions this fall – nice plug!), “The Final Call” entitled, “The Missed Call” and put it all out there; including a sincere apology to Leafs fans everywhere for not having seen the play. Oh, right, did I not mention that? Not only am I mocking your fury at the horrible error I made, but Iâ€™m literally plugging my new attempts to monetize your frustration and my blatant mistake. Because, you know, beyond that one incident, Iâ€™m not sure anyone cares what else I have to say. God, I love this business.
My dear wife, Kathy has always told us (our seven children and I) that feelings exist. See? If I humanize myself by highlighting the attributes of my wonderful family, it make it that much harder for you to hate me. They are real and for the person who holds onto them there is no right or wrong; just that they exist. I have never avoided the subject when asked and today won’t be any different. I will respond to your questions and accept that your feelings exist as another anniversary passes. Hopefully that family line also covers up the fact everything I just said about â€œfeelingsâ€ makes absolutely no sense, beyond suggesting that I donâ€™t care what you think and the crappy frustration you feel is completely irrelevant.
Do you remember what happened 18 years ago today? Have you cleared your mind of it since or do you carry it around with you like luggage?
Yes, Joe in Halifax, I do remember those aching feelings well. The helplessness (see, victim!) of not watching the play knowing for sure what had just occurred as Doug Gilmour dabbed blood from his chin and prevented it from staining the Fabulous Forum ice lingers in my memory. While I don’t carry it with me like “luggage,” the baggage that many a Leafs fan continually pack – oh, yeah, because I feel the real issue here is why fans even care about injustice; what babies you are, refusing to accept that something â€œunfairâ€ and â€œblatantly wrongâ€ doesnâ€™t just become less reprehensible over time. HA!, makes it impossible for the memory to ever go away. After all it was only 18 short years ago! Perhaps more time is required to close the wound? Is there anything else I can say thatâ€™s possibly more sarcastically mocking of your frustrations, putting you on the defensive and deflecting responsibility from my screwup?
Can you go one day without someone mentioning the Gilmour-Gretzky incident to you?
Cory Maas, Toronto
Cory in Toronto, I live in New Jersey and nobody south of the 49th Parallel is really affected by this. Just one more way of saying that you are totally irrelevant and undermining all your criticisms. Even the NHL looked the other way! Repercussions? Pffft. My careerâ€™s been great. Many events have occurred for me since that night in Los Angeles, both professionally and personally.
I worked several Stanley Cup Finals; the World Cup of Hockey; the Winter Olympics in Nagano; the 2000 All Star Game in Toronto; the Winter Classic in Boston’s Fenway Park to mention a few in a record setting career. Did you miss it the first time I said it? #AwesomeCareer #ImAwesome #NoOneCaresAbout1993ButYou
On a personal level, I buried my father in 2001 – the same father that chased a Leafs fan from Kitchener up the street with an axe in the wee hours of the morning after the game in ’93. The uninvited assailant drove away in haste after continually ramming into Dad’s mini-motor home parked in the driveway of his Sarnia home. (Kitchener is close to a two-hour drive from Sarnia in Southern Ontario.) My mother has retired the referee whistle that hung on a skate lace by her telephone at the ready to blow into the phone whenever terribly obscene phone calls were received at their home.
Interject: There is nothing mockable or funny about this, if itâ€™s true. Fraserâ€™s family deserved none of that. That one paragraph gets a pass.
We have witnessed our children’s graduation from high school and university. Kathy and I shared in the joy at weddings for three of our children to this point, along with the current engagement of two others. We have been blessed with five beautiful grandchildren years after the missed call. Seriously, I can talk about myself forever. Life is not static unless we chose it to be and mine has continually moved forward. Which means that if I can pretend like nothing ever happened, so can you! Ugh.
That being said, when I was in Toronto at the TSN studios for the first month of the Stanley Cup Playoffs every day someone would recognize me and ask me about ’93. The supervising producer who coordinates the website at TSN sifts through all your questions and provides me with the ones that best serve the leagueâ€™s and online editorsâ€™ respective agendas I answer in this column. He tells me there is at least one a day on the Gretzky-Gilmour subject. In some camps the very mention of my name causes vitriol unlike no other.
Did Gilmour or Gretzky ever talk to you/confront you about you know what back in 1993? Is it a taboo subject?
Stephen Anderson – Oakville, Ontario
Stephen Anderson in Oakville, I did speak to Doug Gilmour about the missed call in a telephone conversation he and I had last summer. It was horrible, It was mostly cordial, he swore at me for sixteen straight minutes, even friendly since we argued vehemently on my involvement on that play. My â€œdidnâ€™t see itâ€ versus his â€œf*****g blind or rigged, whicheverâ€™s worse, a**h***â€ as we shared stories and different perspectives from our long careers. Doug Gilmour is a class act beyond being the tremendous player, captain and leader that he was throughout his career. Doug understands that plays are missed and mistakes are made by officials and players alike, but pointed out that missing that call in that game is like an Olympic runner training 10 years for the 100m sprint and then lining up facing the wrong way when the gun goes off. In that conversation, ‘Killer’ shared something I have seen him state publicly in the past. Doug said, “Give me Game 7 back in my home building and I’d take it any time. We just didn’t get it done.” See? They derailed their own series, not me. I just added an unnecessary, wouldnâ€™t-have-even-been-an-obstacle element that helped shatter their resolve before Game 7.
Doug Gilmour retired as a Maple Leaf in the 2002-2003 season. During almost 10 years that we were on the ice together after May 27, 1993, I never heard Doug Gilmour reference that play with me, probably because he pretty much hated me after that and we didnâ€™t really speak until that vaguely-referenced â€œmostly cordialâ€ phone call last year. At no time did I ever discuss the incident with Wayne Gretzky. Why would I care about the truth? And why would Wayne be that stupid? If you sh*t your pants in Math class, when the teacher asks whatâ€™s causing the smell, do you put your hand up? Wayne knew what happened better than any of us.
What can you say to me to make me stop hating your guts after the missed high stick in 93? You cost us the Cup because everyone knows we would have whupped the Habs!
And finally to all the “Andrews of Toronto” that need me to say something that might help make you “stop hating my guts.” I don’t really think there is much more that I can say that hasn’t been already said. “I’m sorry, I missed the call, I blew it…” just don’t seem to be helping you let go of it or the fact that the Leafs lost Game 7 back in Toronto, as if forcing culpability on them in some less-than-should-have-been-likely scenario somehow reduces the role I played putting them there.
Instead, please allow me to share with you a quote that Doug Gilmour gave to Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun on the occasion of my last game worked in the Air Canada Centre on March 27, 2010. Your captain said, “Please let it go. It’s over. The man’s retiring. For the sake of his sanity, let it go.” See? That pr-â€¦wait, thereâ€™s really nothing in there about the merits of my officiating. Damnit, Doug!
If that fails Andrew, I would like to offer the wisdom of Alexander Pope (even though he didn’t play for the Toronto Maple Leafs) who said, “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
So, the moral of all this: “Meh.”
Or, if youâ€™d prefer, “I screwed up. But every day that goes by makes it less relevant, somehow, so forget the injustice of it and accept that while the universe will usually win, the Leafs will usually not.”
Peace be with you…
It still stinks, Kerry. Maybe you missed the call. Maybe a linesman didnâ€™t do his job. Maybe the NHL was trying to establish a foothold in a new, promising US market and sidelining the leagueâ€™s marquee player on said team for what would have been the most critical few moments in the Campbell conference playoffs would have been, in short, â€œbad for the â€œbrand.â€ Maybe your mind ran through those permutations pretty damn quickly, as the league may or may not have trained you to do.
Maybe the Leafs would have won the cup.