December 28, 2010
In their shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets suffered a slight disadvantage in power plays: The Wild were 0-for-7, while the Jackets didn't have a single manpower advantage all game.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, a few fans in Section 109 of Nationwide Arena got on 21-year-veteran referee Paul Devorski during the game for what they felt was a blown call.
Devorski's response to that criticism? According to eyewitnesses, he made a "crying face" and gave them the finger. From Aaron Portzline of The Dispatch:
Roughly 15 fans seated in or around the area sent emails or Twitter messages to The Dispatch shortly after the incident, which occurred during a stoppage in play. Blue Jackets fans were giving Devorski grief for what they thought was a missed highstick by a Wild player to the face of Jackets captain Rick Nash(notes).
"Two guys in front of us started giving the refs (grief) after they clearly missed a call," said Ritter Hoy, who was seated five rows up from the glass in section 109. "Happens at every game, right?
"Well, the No. 10 official put his fingers up and rubbed his eyes and made a crying face, like 'what are you going to do, cry?' They started giving him more (grief) and he put his middle finger up to his chin and acted like he was scratching his face. It was very, very blatant. The whole section saw it and went crazy."
"I have to say the guys who were two rows in front of us were kind of provoking him," Hoy said. "They were pretty much provoking him. But he has to be used to that kind of stuff, right? He can't go there, can he?
Apparently he did, and can you blame him? For god's sake, they're referees, not guards at Buckingham Palace. If the fans were provoking him, good on Devorski for giving it back -- even if that action comes at a price.
Unfortunately, his response happened on a night when there was a significant disparity in penalties called and at a time when Blue Jackets fans and media feel the referees have it in for them. So it's going to be viewed within that context; rather than a ref telling some rowdies to piss off, he's mocking the home crowd while putting his whistle away for the Blue Jackets. Our society zeroes in on perceptions of bias; which is why referees don't typically go Devorski on taunting fans.
Portzline reports that NHL VP of hockey operations Colin Campbell had no comment, and Devorski didn't return an email. We imagine the next name involved in this story will be director of officiating Terry Gregson to either claim nothing happened or to tell The Dispatch that the matter's been addressed internally.
Hey, Lucic only got a fine for flipping the bird to the Thrashers, and he sucker-punched a guy ...