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Milbury Wrong on Dan Boyle and Corey Perry

May 22, 2015, 1:10 PM ET [34 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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One of these days, maybe I'll learn my lesson. During hockey season, I'll simply put the TV on mute during intermission studio segments with my ol' buddy Mike Milbury on the air and go about my other business for 15 minutes.

It is obvious that Mike wants to be the American version of Don Cherry, and that's what his employers want as well. Here's the difference: Don has charisma and his rants come off in an oddball avuncular sort of way whereas Mike is charmless and humorless; a run-of-the-mill hothead and a bully.

Hey, that's just how I see it. Feel free to disagree.

At any rate, the other day, Milbury was dumping on the Rangers' Dan Boyle, basically calling him too old and a liability to his team. Funny, but I think Boyle has looked just fine.

Yes, there are certain shifts one can pick apart (but you can do that for any player) and some defensive matchups where he's at a disadvantage because he gives up size. Overall, though, Boyle has done the job the Rangers acquired him to do. When put in position to succeed, he succeeds.

A little full disclosure is in order. Boyle has long been a player that I've held in high regard. As a rule of thumb, Boyle doesn't even fit the type of physical mold I generally prefer for defensemen. I am usually drawn toward bigger and physically stronger players to compromise the backbone of the blueline. Nevertheless, Boyle has always had the "it" factor to me, and seems to be at his best in game games.

Boyle is very hockey smart. He's a leader, who makes his team better. He's not the biggest. He's not the fastest. Maybe there a few other guys who can run the power play as well as him. But he's a winner, because he does things you can't teach. If the Rangers finally break through this spring to win their second Stanley Cup since 1940, Boyle will have been part of it in ways that can't be measured in fancy stats or a few handpicked video clips.

Late in my NHL refereeing career, while Boyle was a young player with the Florida Panthers, I worked a game in which coach Mike Keenan and Boyle had a loud disagreement. He was traded shortly thereafter to Tampa Bay, and we traveled on the same plane.

Shortly after his arrival in Tampa, the Lightning played a game against the Panthers. I reffed that game, too. Boyle scored a goal and tried to "gift" the puck to Keenan. Right then and there, I thought to myself, "Wow, this kid has some moxie."

His play in many the seasons that followed showed why there was good reason to be self-confident. Actually, when I was working for the Bruins and interviewed for the GM job, I was strongly in favor of pursuing a trade possibility with Tampa Bay that would have sent Joe Thornton and Hal Gill to Tampa and brought Vincent Lecavalier and Boyle to Boston. Obviously, that trade never came to fruition nor did I get the GM job. Such is life.

At any rate, players who are "liabilities" don't get to play north of 1,000 NHL regular season games and 120-plus playoff games. That's especially true when they player is an undersized defenseman who was never drafted. The differential between his assets and drawbacks must tilt to the positive for the guy to last this long.

In regard to Milbury's comment that, if he was playing against Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry, he would "hurt him in a painful and permanent way," I nearly did a spit-take. First of all, the idea of advocating for deliberately trying to inflict permanent injury on a player is despicable. That's not hockey.

Secondly, penalty minute totals aside, Mike was far from a tough guy when he played (and I've known him for decades because we're in the same age group and hail from Massachusetts). I know how he played, and Milbury would have carefully kept his distance from a big, aggressive, mean (and not-so-clean) player like Perry.

Mike accumulated a lot of penalty minutes in his career, but they were mostly grandstanding PIMs. The bulk of his penalty minutes in 10-minute misconducts and end-of-the-night game misconducts. He was a big guy, especially for that era, but most of his fights were against small guys especially when Milbury was at the beginning of a shift and other guy was at the end. Otherwise, he mostly specialized in picking up the gloves after the Bruins' genuinely tough players like Terry O'Reilly and John Wensick fought the other team's big and tough players.

I don't like everything Corey Perry does on the ice. He's a big scorer but he plays dirty far too often. On that, I am totally agreed with Milbury.

In my playing days, Perry would have been the type of opposing about whom Jacques Demers would have said "Someone needs to get that guy" (meaning teaching him a humiliating lesson in fisticuffs, not seeking to maim him) and I'd have been the first in line. That's why Jacques liked me.

As a referee, I'd have known that Perry was one of those guys like Keith Tkachuk that I had to keep an eye on at all times. If someone got Perry to drop the gloves and tuned him up, I would shed no tears for Perry.

But calling for someone to cause Perry permanent injury, such as in deliberately taking out his knees or whatever? That's garbage. The Ducks have demanded that Milbury apologize and I agree with them. He took it way over the line.

OK, folks. I promise from now on that I will really, really try hard to avoid blogs tied to things that Mr. Milbury says. It's gotten to the point where blogging about Mike is like beating a dead horse with its own shoe (ahem).


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 is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the ECAC.

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.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.
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