“I understand the parents' perception of it. It's not cool. If I was in the building with my two little children, I would not want to see that.” – Jim Playfair
Jim Playfair’s jacket-jettisoning, stick-smashing, profanity-proliferated temper tantrum has become a YouTube classic, eliciting more than 600,000 hits on the popular Internet web site. While this isn’t the exposure the usually soft-spoken bench boss of the Abbotsford Heat would prefer to receive, his comically caustic conduct have made him an unlikely on-screen celebrity.
Over the past few days, we’ve been inundated with visual evidence of other instances of on-ice anger mismanagement. Most notable have been Robbie Ftorek’s bench-bouncing business during a Devils-Red Wings game in February of 2000 and the infamous Donut-related retort that Jim Schoenfeld heaved at referee Don Koharski following game three of the 1988 Wales Conference Finals between New Jersey and Boston.
To honor those mischievous achievements in hockey heaving, let’s look back on some other not-so-notable outbursts by managers, coaches, players and, yes, referees that involved the tossing of more than just a tantrum.
Washington Capitals’ general manager George McPhee entered this den of dubious distinction by hefting the only item immediately at his disposal – his fists. Following an exhibition game between the Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks on September 30, 1999, McPhee – upset at what he thought was aggressive agitation by the Hawks – accosted coach Lorne Molleken outside the dressing room and bopped the Chicago bench boss on the bugle. McPhee was handed a one-month suspension for his temper-tinged transgression.
He never did participate in the Olympics, but LA Kings coach Tom Webster auditioned for a spot on the Canadian javelin team during a game between the Kings and Detroit Red Wings on November 16, 1991. Angered at a call by referee Kerry Fraser, Webster ripped a rod off the rack and launched the lance into the air. The stick landed right on target, rattling off the skates of the unimpressed on-ice arbitrator. Webster was sentenced to a 12-game stint in the off-ice sin-bin and was relieved of his duties as Kings coach at the end of the season.
On March 18, 1999, Philadelphia Flyers bench boss Roger Neilson blew a gasket and any chance he may have had at coach of the year honors when he borrowed a page from Tom Webster’s play book during a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Neilson lobbed a stick onto the ice, narrowly missing a linesman. When asked to comment on what punishment he should expect, Neilson replied, “I’ll probably get two games because it was a very poor toss.” That prediction was right on target.
Minor League, Major Mess
Brent Sapergia holds a unique place in hockey history. In 1994, the Wichita Thunder forward became the first player in professional hockey history to score five goals in a single period. Fifteen years later, Sapergia entered the record books again, but for entirely different reasons. During a November 6, 2009 game between the Pensacola Ice Pirates and his Louisiana IceGators, Sapergia threw a fit and, well, everything else he could get his hands on.
When his tempestuous tirade was over, the ice was littered with two dozen sticks, a Gatorade bucket, a medical kit, a spare chair and other assorted pieces of equipment and clothing. When Sapergia’s assistant coach mockingly mentioned that there were still three rolls of tape behind the bench, that trio got tossed as well. Sapergia was banned from the bench “indefinitely” as a lesson in littering.
All Bells, No Whistles
Back in the days when on-ice officials banged bells instead of blowing whistles, referee Bobby Hewitson and Toronto St. Pats forward Babe Dye both flung a fit and a few other items as well. During a game between the Pats and Montreal Maroons on February 27, 1926, Toronto’s Norm Shay appeared to score but referees Billy Bell and Bobby Hewitson refused to allow the goal, asserting that the puck never entered the net. A prolonged series of arguments between the players and on-ice officials ensued with both sides refusing to give up the fight.
When Hewitson attempted to re-start the proceedings, he couldn’t find the puck. Turns out Babe Dye had scooped up the wafer and tossed it into the crowd. In that era, a single disc was used for the entire game and all spares also seemed to be conveniently "missing." Referee Hewitson, exasperated by the whole affair, threw down his bell and left it clanging on the ice while he adjourned to the ref’s room. Eventually Dye retrieved the puck, Hewitson reclaimed his bell and the game continued.