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Flies in the Vaseline

January 11, 2016, 12:20 PM ET [5 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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When you stick around this game long enough -- especially when you've been on both the officiating and playing sides of the game -- you get to know lots of tricks of the trade.

As most of you know, I did a lot of fighting during my playing days. I handled myself well in most of my fights but I had a tendency to bleed easily. The same thing would happen if I was clipped with a stick. To combat it, I borrowed a page from boxers and put vaseline under my eyes and around my chin before the game. That way, if I was cut, the bleeding stopped faster.

When I became an official, I saw some players -- mostly fighters -- who would apply vaseline to their uniforms to make it tough for an opponent to grab hold. One time, I told defenseman Greg Smyth (a frequent fighter) that I would not allow him to play like that.

He argued, "Show me where in the Rule Book it says I can't do it?"

I said, "It says all players must be properly uniformed. You're not."

He replied, "How am I not properly uniformed?"

"Unless every one else on both teams has added a coat of vaseline to their uniforms, you're not in compliance. Get rid of it."

In case you were wondering, the following sections of the current NHL Rule Book could be applied. Rule 9 covers uniforms with Rule 9.1 prohibiting "altered uniforms" (which would include foreign substances applied to the outside of the material). Rule 14 covers adjustment to clothing or equipment, saying "the onus of maintaining clothing and equipment in proper condition shall be on the player" -- smearing it with vaseline is not maintaining it in proper condition. Lastly, there is a "fair play rule" (12.4) that, while it explicitly applies to the banning of equipment that is deemed to be dangerous -- even if not specifically mentioned in the Rule Book -- the principle can be extended to uniforms that are also rendered dangerous and against the spirit of fair play.

So there you have it.


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.

Today, Stewart serves as director of hockey officiating for the ECAC at both the Division 1 and Division 3 levels.

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.
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