Former Hockey Star Sues Referee on the Fly

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Linesmen attempt to break up a fight around the Tampa Bay goal during the first ice hockey playoff game between the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning by Wikipedia User Leec44, licensed by Creative Commons.

Refs and players have always had a frosty relationship.

Professional athletes and referees have never gotten along too well, but an NHL legend is bringing this disagreement with an official to the next level. Former Philadelphia Flyer Eric Lindros is suing referee Paul Stewart for defamation of character after the ref’s comments in an article for the Huffington Post. Early in the 1990’s, Stewart and Lindros had a disagreement during a game, which played into the controversial incident. Stewart claims that after the game, he approached the 19-year-old Lindros and asked him to sign some posters for a charity event. The referee claims Lindros ripped the posters in half, and proceeded to verbally assault him. The Flyer Captain has come out and defended himself, balking at the idea that he is unnecessarily hostile and not charitable. Lindros is seeking $250,000 from both Stewart and the Huffington Post for running the story.

The article goes into detail about Stewart’s first experience with Eric Lindros, during an NHL game played in Philadelphia over 20 years ago. The Flyers were hosting the New Jersey Devils, in what was Lindros’ first game back from an injury. Stewart claims he tried to make small talk during a break in the action, to which Lindros responded with insults and expletives. The Flyer Captain is now taking this matter personally, questioning why the referee would point to him as a bad guy with an attitude problem. The lawsuit was filed north of the U.S. border in an Ontario, Canada court, with the hockey star originally seeking $3M.

Interestingly enough, Stewart is the only United States born person to have both played and officiated in the National Hockey League, although I highly doubt this is a U.S. vs Canada issue; more of a “player vs ref” issue. Flyers players have long had a reputation for being tough and aggressive; the hard-hitting club earned the nickname “Broad Street Bullies” in the early-to-mid 70’s. Lindros certainly has the reputation of being a tough guy on the ice, however the personal attacks on his character seem unwarranted. While the incident in question may have happened, it is curious to see why Stewart would be so adamant to name specific names and go into detail about an argument from 1992. It sounds like both of these guys deserve time in the penalty box.