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I have been debating whether to do an audiobook version of my autobiography, "Ya Wanna Go." If there is enough interest, I may do so. It'd be fun to accentuate some of the stories in the book with vocal impressions of some of the people in the stories.
I used to do a spot-on impersonation of Gary Bettman's vocal cadence and New York-inflected voice. My longtime NHL linesman buddy Brian Murphy can attest to this story: He and I wanted to grab dinner one night after a game in Long Island at Peter Lugers Steakhouse in Brooklyn. Players, coaches and fellow officials raved about the place to us.
I called and asked for a reservation after the game.
"Sorry, we are booked up solid for the next week," said the voice on other end. "We can fit you in for a 10 o'clock a week from Thursday."
That wasn't going to do us any good. I was nothing if not persistent. A few minutes later, I called back as "Gary".
"Hello, this is National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman," I said. "I need a table tonight for myself, my best referee, Paul Stewart, and two of my linesmen. We will be there 90 minutes after the game tonight."
"Absolutely, Mr. Bettman," they said. "See you tonight."
The steak was delicious. Too bad Mr. Bettman had a last-second change of plans.
At any rate, I have always had a flair for showmanship. I can bring out my Dorchester accent or tone it down, on demand (it tends to more naturally come out when I am worked up or passionate about something). In between the end of my professional playing career and the beginning of my officiating career, I did a bunch of different jobs. I was a part-time policeman, a substitute teacher, a car salesman and even a laundromat manager. None of those really suited me, because my heart was still at the rink, but perhaps the most fun I had during that dark period in my life was hosting a sports radio show.
As a radio host, my favorite guest was Pete Rose. I first got to know him in 1977 and 1978 when I played for the WHL's Cincinnati Stingers and he, of course, was a star for the Cincinnati Reds. I had Pete on a couple times when he with the Philadelphia Phillies and brought them their championship after 97 years of falling short.
I have done some radio and TV commercials over the years, too, and have played bit roles in several movies. Those were fun.
When I was making a tentative step toward a comeback as a pro player a year after turning down a two-way offer from the Buffalo Sabres and going home for personal reasons, I briefly played low minor league hockey for the Cape Cod Buccaneers, who were owned by Vince McMahon Jr. (of pro wrestling promoting fame/infamy).
In wrestling-like fashion, Vince wanted me to record promos for upcoming games. The specifics were up to me, I was told, but the idea was for it to be totally over-the-top-stuff. Things along the lines of "Let me tell you something, (opponent name here), when you step into our building on Thursday night, we're gonna run you out of town and I'll personally pulverize every last one of you and slam the arena door behind you. Bring it on, one-on-one or three-at-a-time."
That suggestion made me uncomfortable, though. I didn't think it was good for the game, nor do I think it's becoming to go into Slap Shot "bounty on the head of Tim McCracken" turf. It's not heels vs. babyfaces out there, it's one team against another. I am admittedly old-fashioned but I believed in the Code, and this was disrespectful and not genuine to how I actually viewed my role or my opponents.
When I said no to the promo idea, Vince didn't try to force the issue. I wasn't there for very long, but it's one of my more vivid memories I have from that brief period of time. Short of something like that, though, I do enjoy hamming it up a bit.
A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart.