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By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2003

Esposito: Have ex-players make calls

Lightning founder Phil Esposito has an interesting way for the NHL to improve the quality of its officiating: Recruit former players and train them to be referees.

"I'm not talking about guys in their 40s, but guys who are finished at 28, 29, 30 years old. Take a year and train them," Esposito said. "They have a feel for the game because they played."

Esposito even had a prime candidate: former Lightning left wing John Tucker.

"John Tucker was a pretty good little hockey player," Esposito said. "Maybe John would be interested in learning how to do that."

Tucker, 38, who lives in the area and heads the Lightning's alumni program, chuckled when asked about Espo's idea.

"I think you give up a lot when you play, travel-wise with your family, and refereeing is a ton of travel," Tucker said. "For me personally, no, but I think it's a good idea. It gives you a chance for life after hockey."

The NHL said it does not have a program to recruit former players, and that Kevin Maguire and Paul Stewart are the only current referees who have NHL playing experience. Maguire played for the Maple Leafs, Sabres and Flyers from 1986-92. Stewart played 21 games for Quebec in 1979-80.

Pat on the back

The Lightning has had its share of problems with officiating this season, but coach John Tortorella went out of his way to praise the job done Tuesday by Dan Marouelli and Ian Walsh during Tampa Bay's 1-0 win over the Red Wings.

"I didn't see them. That's all I have to say. I didn't know they were there. It was terrific," Tortorella said. "There was no influence by the refs as far as the outcome of that game. Danny Marouelli, to me, is one of the best refs in the game. He comes over and talks to you. He's one of the best if not the best."

Five Questions with Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen:

Q : How has the halving of the scouting staff affected what you do?

A: We're still covering the same areas. Maybe what we're not getting is quite as many viewings. We just have to make them more quality viewings. So I think we're all right.

Q : Any plans to expand the staff?

A: We might make a few additions next year. We'll see how this year plays out. We may add another guy in Europe and another guy in North America. But for the most part, we're doing well.

Q : How has international travel changed since 9/11?

A: Initially, security was so tight. But they've gotten more efficient at airports, so it's not as big a problem. And what I've found is that since 9/11, I have not lost one bag. So from that standpoint, it's been better.

Q : Has the food in Russia gotten better?

A: You know what? It's not great. I don't eat the meat over there. I have the odd salmon, but that's about it.

Q : Favorite places to visit?

A: Anywhere else in Europe where hockey is being played I enjoy going.

Around the league

Washington's Jaromir Jagr, the $88-million man, is feeling picked on. "If you're going to score goals and you're going to lose, it's still going to be my fault," he said. "If we're winning and I don't score, it's still my fault." So whose fault was it that Jagr had three goals in 14 games before Saturday's hat trick? ... In his first 24 games with the Red Wings, defenseman Jason Woolley is plus-12. In 14 games with the Sabres, he was minus-1. ... The Oilers farm team in Hamilton, Ontario, had an 18-game unbeaten streak (16-0-2) until losing Saturday. Said Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish: "I wish there was a trickle-up effect."


"Of course I want to have highlight hits and kill people, but if it's not there, it's not there." -- Rangers defenseman Darius Kasparaitis.

-- Compiled by Damian Cristodero from personal interviews and information from other news organizations.

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