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BY DON SCOTT

Paul Devorski, a retired NHL referee, recently returned home from his ‘all expenses paid Canadian vacation”, one that lasted from July 20 to September 3. He hasn’t done anything since then.

Actually, that isn’t exactly true, since in early October he moved to Hershey.

‘Devo’, as everyone calls Devorski, was working as a supervisor of officials for the Stanley Cup playoffs in Toronto, a stint that ended when the Boston-Tampa Bay series was over. Since there was only one series, left he was told he could go home.

“The first round I had two series going that included Montreal taking Pittsburgh out, then I did the Carolina series and during that round there were times I had two games a day,” Devorski said. “My job was to supervise the officials on the ice, so what I did was meet with either the coach or GM of each team, to see if they had any problems or questions each day. They would ask about things that happened the day before, or they might ask for the guys to watch and be aware of something a player was doing that could be watched a bit closer.

“Nobody was ever really ticked off, but they felt better because they could express their opinion,” added Devorski. “If our guys did catch something the, they felt I did listen.”

His daily routine consisted of getting up around 7:30 a.m., and heading down to get tested for COVID-19 in an area where they had about 30 stations set up to get 15 swabs in each nostril. On the brighter side, he was happy to be in Toronto, rather than Edmonton, for a couple of reasons.

“We had access to the Toronto Argonauts BMO Stadium where they had food and you could do all kinds of different things,” Devorski said “Edmonton had one little court yard where you could get some sun, and that was it. I also spent a lot of time in the gym, so I took some flack on that about whether I was getting into condition for a comeback on the ice. Before the NHL shutdown I worked about 30 games, then another 15-20 games in Toronto. But a highlight had to be getting picked to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime, hopefully, event.”

On the negative side was the fact that his mother lived about an hour away, but he couldn’t go see her. His brother was also there and his wife would bring him some things that she had to hand to a security guy at the gate and he’d check it out.

They could stand there talking but had to keep the required distance between them.

Another huge difference between these games and all previous playoff tilts was that no fans were in attendance, and the only sounds of any kind came when either team scored.

“All the off-ice officials, TV crews, rink employees and many others were running around because they all had a job to do” said Devorski. “If a team had a day off, they could come in to a special area to watch games, and everyone had a pass around their neck that you had to wear to go anywhere.  As far as the media, it was pretty empty in the press box and certainly nothing like a regular playoff season, with maybe just four guys after a game standing around to do interviews. I have to give the league credit because it all went smoothly.”

Considering the recent news of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, the future looks a bit more hopeful for everyone, not just hockey. If games start up with no fans, the hope is that it would change quickly because teams can’t afford to keep going the way it is now. 

“I know there’s been talk about setting up bubble situations, like maybe in Tampa, where six teams would play a bunch of games but doing that in the AHL would be more difficult,” said Devorski. “The bottom line is I’m still just waiting to hear what is decided. When we shutdown in mid-March, I was headed to Washington for a game when I got the word that all the games were cancelled. In May, all NHL-employed people were told there would be a 25 percent pay cut. That meant I’m still getting the other 75 percent, but I’m not doing anything to earn it!”

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