BY DON SCOTT
The 41st annual Induction and Ceremonial Awards Dinner of the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame will be conducted at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14 at the Lebanon Quality Inn. As always there will be an outstanding lineup of area athletes inducted into the local chapter.
nductees for 2011 include: Walt Long (sportswriter), Ben Witter (golf), Ethney “Tony” Louwerse (baseball), W. Keith Fulk (soccer) and Paul Devorski (NHL referee).
Being inducted as a “nominee of distinction” will be Kramer Williamson of Palmyra, a 2008 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
Also honored as the “Pop” Kelchner Senior Athletes of the Year will be David Nolan and Alyssa Voelmle, both of Hershey High School. The Courageous Athlete award goes to Sarah Rhine, and Thomas Bender will receive the Community Service honor.
Devorski spent just three seasons refereeing in the AHL before calling his first NHL contest in 1989. Since then, he has called more than 1,200 NHL games, plus nearly 200 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the 2011 finals, which was his seventh. He also did the 2004 World Cup, 2006 Olympics in Italy and 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“Getting to the NHL in that short a time was a bit unexpected and I don’t know why it was so quick, because back then, it was still a one-man job, unlike now when there are two for each game,” Devorksi said. “Getting playoff games is based on a merit system during the season, then 20 refs are selected and that number decreases as the series end. We’re evaluated by supervisors each series leading up to the finals when four are picked.
“The Olympics and World Cup games show the game can be played without the fighting and still have plenty of good hitting,” Devorksi continued. “I don’t think there was one fight in this year’s playoffs, so it can be done.”
Then he added, “To tell you the truth, I think most of the fights now are staged. You’ll see two guys tap the shin pads and say lets go and that’s what they do. That happens because the fans like it and it’s also maybe the only time in the game these guys will be on the ice. If you are a fighter today you still better be able to play hockey.”
Injuries are a big part of hockey and officials are not immune from getting run into the boards or being struck by flying pucks or sticks, as “Devo” has experienced more than once.
“The most serious injury was when I had my ear almost ripped off in Florida with about five minutes to play. A guy tried to avoid a hit and his stick came up high and it popped me on the ear and I wasn’t wearing a helmet.
“They wanted me to go off the ice to get stitched up, but if I did that it would’ve held up the game so I said let’s finish it then I will,” Devorski said. “They laid me on two chairs and the doctor came in and put more than 20 stitches in my ear.
“It is now mandatory that we wear helmets and I believe it is mandatory for all new guys coming to also have a visor,” Devorski added. “In Junior-A as a player, I wore a helmet but I took it off when I started officiating. Now with the speed of the game in recent years it’s a good thing.”
One of the major changes in his job took place a few years ago when the NHL went to a two-referee system, something Devorski said is good for the game.
“With what’s going on it is a good thing to have two refs out there and I think that will happen in the AHL eventually,” said Devorski. “There’s too much going on for just one set of eyes to see it all. Now players expect the holding and interference to be called because the system has been in place for several years. If we don’t call it now they look at us.”
Having turned 53 this spring, Devorski said he went into camp as the oldest guy, but was in good shape and had a good frame of mind.
“It gets tougher every year, but I’m going to let my body tell me when it’s time to quit,” said Devorski. “I’d like to be around a few more years as long as I don’t embarrass myself.
“I’d consider staying around as a supervisor, maybe in the AHL which would be great, especially living just outside of Hershey, it would be easy for me,” added Devorski. “Doing the NHL would be fine, but I don’t know if I’d want all that traveling.”
Tickets for the Nov. 14 banquet, which is open to the public, are $25 and available by contacting Ed Ludwig at 865-3757.