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Uni Watch Book Club: Between the Lines

New ESPN column today — here’s the link.

Meanwhile: Reader AJ Brandt recently informed me that he’d been reading NHL linesman Ray “Scampy” Scapinello‘s memoir, Between the Lines (written with Rob Simpson; see link at right), and that it featured several uni-related anecdotes. I asked if he’d be willing to transcribe the passages in question, which he’s now generously done. So today’s blog entry offers a peek into the uniform travails of an NHL official.

Without further ado:

Scampy probably signed and gave away about six or seven of his sweaters a season, mostly as charitable contributions but sometimes to players. His first two jerseys from the league were free, but each subsequent replacement cost him about thirty or forty bucks apiece.

“In terms of players, Bob Probert asked me for my jersey one time. Domi has one, and Ray Bourque as well,” Scampy points out.

Andy Van Hellemond, during his tenure as Director of Officiating, discouraged the bartering and collecting.

“Mainly for that reason,” linesman Scott Driscoll says, “I’ll barter for things that are more away from hockey, like a number 68 NBA official’s jersey [Driscoll wears 68 himself, as you can partially see here. — PL], or an umpire’s jacket.”


In terms of ultimate bartering, linesman Wayne Bonney may be the one-time champion. During a transaction that took several years, crossed the continent, and involved multiple trades, Bonney pulled off a whopper.

“When I lived in Montreal, I had a friend, [we’ll call him] Jerry, who owned a marble company,” Bonney relates as background to what’s to come. “When Mario Lemieux retired the first time, he had his final game in Montreal, and he gave the jersey he wore that night to Phil Schroeder, who did scheduling for the NHL. Phil kept the sweater at his house.”

In the off-season, Bonney installed sprinkler systems, and at one point he installed one for Phil. For a decent-size house like the one Schroeder owned, the sprinkler job would normally cost about two to three thousand dollars.

“How much?” Phil asked.

“Well, if you can get me a Mario Lemieux jersey, I’ll do it for nothing,” Bonney answered after secretly admiring the number 66 hanging on the wall. Phil agreed and gave Bonney the jersey from the Montreal game.

Fast-forward to years later, with Bonney and his wife relocated to the west coast.

“I had since moved to Seattle in 1993 and was putting marble in my three bathrooms in our new house,” Bonney recalls. “My wife went to Toronto to order marble. She picked it out from Jerry’s store there — Jerry, the friend we knew from Montreal.”

When Bonney heard the prices, he winced but agreed to make the purchase. He also jumped on the phone to make Jerry a proposal and hopefully ease the pain.

“I’ll give you a Mario Lemieux jersey, signed, for your son, for some consideration on the marble,” Bonney offered. Jerry thought that sounded pretty good, but that was it — the proposal just hung there. Jerry went ahead and shipped out all of the marble, twelve to fifteen thousand dollars’ worth (retail) to Seattle. It cost seventeen hundred bucks just to ship it.

“Wayne, what understanding did you have on this marble and the Mario Lemieux sweater?” Jerry asked him after sending the invoice.

“Well, I thought you were going to give me all of the marble for the Lemieux sweater, but I thought you were f-ing nuts,” Bonney laughed.

“Yeah, well, I can’t do that. I can’t give you twelve grand worth of marble for a jersey,” Jerry came back.

“Well, yeah, I thought you were a bit nuts,” Bonney said. “I’m more than fair. What do you want to do?”

“Actually, I can get away with giving you the marble, but I can’t get away from the seventeen hundred dollars in shipping,” Jerry came back. “Can you pay it?”

“I’ll send you a check tomorrow,” Bonney replied. Bonney had his marble. What a deal — the envy of short, bald linesmen everywhere.


Bonney really let rookie linesman Baron Parker have it once.

Rookies did laundry.

“Let me have your stuff. I’ll wash it,” Parker told Bonney when they had returned to the hotel after a game in San Jose. They were doing back-to-back games there.

An hour or so after he parted with his jersey, Bonney went to the laundry room himself to get it back. With no one around, Bonney looked in the dryer, saw his jersey, grabbed it, figured it was dry enough, and walked upstairs.

“I hid it. He didn’t know I had it, so I hid it. I actually gave it to the referee.”

Not much later, Parker showed up at Bonney’s room.

“Here’s your stuff, ahhh, but there’s a problem,” Parker started.

“What’s the problem?” Bonney asked, knowing full well.

“I don’t have the jersey,” Parker replied.

“What do you mean you don’t have the jersey? I gave it to you,” Bonney pressed.

“Yeah, I know, but I can’t find it,” Parker said.

“Do you have yours?”

“Yeah, I’ve got everything, I just can’t find your jersey,” Parker admitted again.

“We’ve got a game tomorrow night at seven o’clock. You’ve got one day to find me a jersey. If you don’t find me a jersey by game time, I’m wearing your jersey and you’re going to wear a white practice jersey from the team.” Bonney was exercising seniority.

“No way,” Parker came back.

“Oh yeah,” Bonney insisted.

Bonney got a good night’s steep, woke up, and kind of forgot about the hazing-in-progress until Parker showed up at his room.

Parker started searching the room for Bonney’s jersey.

“What are you doing?” Bonney asked innocently.

“I’m checking your room,” Parker responded, thinking he was on to something. He was, of course, but Bonney wasn’t yet ready to let him off the hook. Parker had a nervous smile. Bonney played dumb.

Along came pre-game at the rink.

“Where’s my jersey?” Bonney asked Parker.

“I don’t have it,” Parker answered.

“‘That’s it, give me your jersey.” Bonney pulled rank and Parker obliged. Bonney then instructed the security guard, who already knew about the prank, to go get Parker a white jersey.

At that point, Parker tried to explain the lost jersey to his cohorts. He ran through the scenario again and again, and concluded someone must have ripped it off. The security guard came back, Parker took the white jersey, turned it inside out, and pulled it on. The referee led the linesmen down a tunnel and toward the ice to get loose, check the nets, and get the game started. Parker pulled up the rear, wearing his white jersey.

Just before they stepped onto the ice, Bonney stopped.

“I forgot my whistle, damn it. How did I forget my whistle?” Bonney shouted. He turned around and headed back toward the dressing room. Parker stepped past him and hit the ice, and started skating around in the inside-out practice jersey. Bonney went back to the room, pulled out his own linesman sweater and put it on. He took Parker’s jersey and handed it to the security guard as he stepped back onto the ice.

As the officials and players stood in the dark for the introductions and the national anthem, Parker felt like an idiot in his white jersey. Meanwhile, Bonney had a fat smirk on his face. As the lights came on, Parker was getting in position for the start of the game when Bonney pointed to the glass at the Zamboni gate. On cue, the security guard waved around Parker’s jersey.

“Look what I found,” the guard mouthed.

More relieved at that point than angry, Parker cursed out Bonney under his breath, headed to the corner, and swapped shirts.

“The only reason I gave you that jersey back,” Bonney explained, “is because [NHL Commissioner] Bettman is watching the game.”

Too bad there’s nothing about the distinction between players’ laces and officials’ laces. Still, interesting stuff — big thanks to AJ (and his OCR scanner) for the text.

Uni Watch News Ticker: Here‘s the Dodgers’ BP cap, here‘s their regular game cap, and here‘s Jeff Kent two days ago. Looks like he used a gray or silver marker to make a regular cap look like a BP cap (which sort of makes him the reverse Kenny Rogers). … The Predators will wear a “10 Seasons” patch next season (which, as Zack Bennett points out, should actually be a “10 Years” patch, because of the season lost to the strike). … Reprinted from Tuesday’s comments: Amazing striped socks worn by the Lehman softball team (full gallery here). … The English Premier League pans to unveil a new lettering/numbering design (with thanks to Dominic J. Litten). … According to an inside source, “The Mets, as part of their continuing outreach toward Hispanic markets, may introduce a sombrero-wearing Señor Met,” although the concept is far from final. Other possibilities: “Los Mets” jersey night, similar to the “Gigantes” games out in San Francisco, and “National League Heritage” games, with ’69, ’73, and ’86 throwbacks. None of this is final, though. … Interesting discussion of early hockey equipment here (with thanks to Seth Horowitz). … Nike’s latest brainstorm: Ohio State will be wearing Lebron-branded uniforms in next week’s Big Ten tourney. … Mark Messier’s number retirement ceremony had all the usual trappings: throwbacks with a commemorative patch, a little uni for Messier’s kid, blah-blah-blah. Messier appeared to have autographed his own jersey, which I presume means it was going to be auctioned off afterward. And look here: Life imitates patch. … Gator-print uniforms, yawn. … Good to see Robert Fick still has his hosiery priorities straight. … Alas, the same can’t be said of Rickie Weeks.

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