Whenever I'd work a game in a city, I'd keep one game puck as a souvenir. Over the years, I assembled a pretty big collection of pucks from locales around the NHL and a host of other leagues. The puck collecting became an enjoyable little game for me.
One of the more fun assignments I got during my NHL refereeing career was the honor working the 48th All-Star Game. That year, the game and its surrounding events were held in Vancouver. As part of the pre-game festivities, we did a demonstration for the fans of exactly how the microchip technology of the (now infamous) FoxTrax glowing puck worked.
For the demonstration, I was given a sandwich-style cooler with a dozen FoxTrax pucks. We did our thing, showing the spectators how the chip was activated by contact with the puck and how it would glow blue when carried or passed and would have a red "comet trail" when shot at high velocity.
The demonstration ended. I figured it was a good time to add my first FoxTrax puck to my collection. I casually slipped one in my back pocket, and placed a regular puck in the cooler along with 11 of the high-tech pucks.
As I got to the zamboni gate, I was intercepted by a security guard with a walky-talky.
"Paul, are all the special Fox pucks put away?" he asked.
"Yeah, they are," I said.
"Did you know these pucks cost $500 apiece?"
"Hmmm, really?! Five hundred dollars per puck! Wow, that's insane!" I said.
"Yes, well, we need to account for all 12 of them."
"There are definitely 12 pucks in here. Count them," I said, opening the cooler.
"Ummm, Paul," he said. "What is that?"
He pointed at the JumboTron screen. I was on camera, from the back. The back pocket on the seat of my pants had a bright blue glow. Oops!
By the way, I ultimately did add a FoxTrax puck to my collection.
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 Eastern College Athletic Conference (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.
Stewart's writings can also be found on HockeyBuzz.com every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He is currently working with a co-author in writing an autobiography.