10 questions with recently retired towering linesman Mike Cvik

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Tuesday February 9th, 2016

By Dane Frizzell

Our weekly interview segment continues today. This week’s guest is recently retired NHL linesman Mike Cvik. Cvik worked over 1800 games in the National Hockey League. Cvik also worked the 2002 Gold Medal game in Salt Lake City and had the chance to see Wayne Gretzky score his 802nd goal to pass Gordie Howe on the all-time scoring list. The 6’9 linesman is considered one of the NHL’s strongest linesman in the leagues history. We had a chance to talk to Cvik and ask him about his journey to the NHL.

Dane – “Thanks for joining us today! It’s a pleasure to have you do an interview with us.”

Mike – “Thank you Dane. Its my pleasure to chat with you about my 29 years as a linesman in the NHL.”

Dane – “How are you enjoying retirement? What has been the biggest change in your lifestyle so far?”

Mike – “Well, its been almost a month now and it really hasn’t hit me yet as I’m dealing with a fractured ankle that i sustained in the final 5;30 of my last game when JT Brown clipped my skates and i fell in front of the Flames bench. My right skate got caught in the ice as i fell and my body and knee twisted. At the time i thought it was just an ankle sprain.
The biggest change right now is I’m home all the time and not running around trying to get things done before I leave on a road trip which was usually anywhere from 7-12 days. Trying to fill up my daytime hours as i cant even go to the gym.”

Dane – “What was it like to be chosen as the third star in your last game? That is the first time an official has received that honor.”

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Mike – “It was a complete surprise. I was honoured, it was humbling. Sitting in the dressing room between the 2nd and 3rd period my phone suddenly goes off. Im sitting there wondering who could possibly be calling me as everyone knows I’m working tonight. By the time i grab it and look at it i see it was Kelly Hrudey that called. Kelly was calling to ask me would i stay on the ice and go for the skate if i was named a star. I missed the call and went out for the 3rd period. Apparently the guys in the penalty box told the other officials that i couldn’t leave after the game..they knew, i didn’t…when they wouldn’t let me off the ice and i heard Beesley tell the crowd they were doing the 3 starts in reverse order tonight, it hit me. When i heard my name announced as 3rd star, it hit me hard emotionally as it then became evident to me the respect that i have in the hockey community as a whole. I talked to Kelly a week after and relayed to him my thoughts on it, how great it was, how emotional…I couldn’t thank him enough as it was a very proud moment for me and my family and friends.”

Dane – “You had the chance to experience the first half of the NHL’s first season of expanded video review. Are you a fan of it or did you think it hurt the integrity of the officials and the league?”

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Mike – “Im a fan of getting it right. Our Team mantra this season is “getting it right”. When it was introduced to us at training camp we understood it was for the egregious offside that for whatever reason we don’t react to on the ice. It has morphed into very close replays that right now take a lot of time to look at as they are that close and the camera angles sometimes are not the best at giving us the best look at it. As one VP of a team relayed to me, this process has really shown the hockey people how good the linesman really are at making the correct judgements in real time. I believe it helps the integrity of the league as they recognize how fast and good these players at the NHL level really are, and how good we are. We are not flawless, but we are pretty close.”

Dane – “You had the opportunity to work the 2002 Olympic Gold Medal game in Salt Lake City. What was it like to work a game on the world stage?”

Mike – “It was mind blowing. To be selected as one of the NHL representatives was an honour. Then to work the games and get selected to work in the gold medal game, with 2 North American teams, it was totally overwhelming. In discussions with Bill McCreary after we were told we were working the game, he said to me that its a precedent that 2 North American Officials are working 2 North American teams in a gold medal game…….take that as a fantastic compliment that the IIHF is comfortable in doing that. I had butterflies walking across the parking lot to the rink at 9:45 in the morning.”

Dane – “You played hockey until you were 17 years old. What made you become an official?”

Mike – “I realized that my ability as a hockey player would never be good enough to get me anywhere. My brother played a higher calibre level of hockey and back then, each team supplied an official to work the games. My brothers coach came to me one day when a father didn’t show up and asked me if i would be the team referee. They would pay me. I said sure. During the course of those game, I was approached by a gentleman at the West Hillhurst Arena and was asked if i ever thought of becoming a certified referee. He explained the process. I took the weekend course and here i sit 39 years later after a pretty successful pro career.”

Dane – “The WHL has become one of the finest junior hockey leagues in the world. You worked 7 seasons with the league. What is your fondest memory of your time in the WHL?”

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Mike – “At the time, your just caught up in being involved in the best Junior hockey in North America. It went from just getting a few games as a rookie, to working past January, then getting into the playoffs, then working through the playoffs to the WHL Finals. Seeing a lot of the players you officiated go on to get drafted and play in the NHL. You visualize yourself in the same place as them, getting the call from the NHL to go work in the Pros. I owe a lot to Rick Doerksen, who at the time was the Referee in Chief. He must have seen something in this big gangly kid as he took a chance on me, and i was rewarded with his confidence as i did work a lot of big games during the seasons, and eventually was picked to work the Memorial Cup in 1986 in Portland, Oregon. Of the 7 guys that worked that year in the Memorial Cup, at one time all 7 had been employed by the NHL. It was a great group that Rick put together and I could be mistaken but i don’t think that was ever replicated again.”

Dane – “Is there a NHL referee or linesman you looked up to or modeled yourself after throughout your career?”

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Mike – “There was a few actually….Wayne Forsey gave me some great advise and mentoring as i worked my way through the ranks. He was ahead of his time in respects to how he treated fitness as a very important part of his career. Dan Marouelli…what a fantastic skater. If i could only have skated as effortlessly as he did. Kerry Frasers knowledge of the rules…Swede Knox and Randy Mitton..Jim Christison, Ryan Bozak, Gerard Gauthier, Ray Scapinello, Bob Meyers, Wayne Bonney, Leon Stickle, John D’Amico….all the guys that were full time NHL guys when i got hired….they all had good things to pass along to a young guy. It was how you applied them to your game as to how you were received on the ice.”

Dane – “You were on the ice when Wayne Gretzky scored his record breaking goal. What was it like to share the ice with Wayne and just how loud was that building that night?”

 

 

Mike – “I first met Wayne in 1986 at the Memorial Cup as he was the owner of the Hull Olympiques. Pat Burns was his coach. He remembered me from 1986 when i got hired full time in the NHL. I was on the ice for a lot of his records. That night was incredible. When he picked up the puck and went in on Kirk McLean, shot and scored…the Forum in LA went crazy. The Kings players went crazy. I raced to the net to grab the puck. We had instructions before the game that if Wayne did score, the puck went right to Pete Demers the LA Kings trainer. I leaned in before a Kings player could grab it. All i can remember after that is i held the puck out in front of me so everyone could see me take it from the net to Pete. The ceremony on the ice for him was great, and well deserved. Before we dropped the puck to start after the ceremony, i was standing in front of the LA bench. I moved down to where Wayne was sitting and i leaned into the bench and told him congratulations…..and it was an honour to be on the ice when he passed that milestone. He was very humble in his response and the game continued.”

Dane – “As a linesman you had the task of breaking up quite a few fights. Is there one fight in your mind that was the toughest to break up?”

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Mike – “The one fight that comes to mind was in Detroit. Philadelphia was playing there. I believe it was Konstatinoff accidentally hit Tim Kerr in the face with his stick….it cut him pretty bad…Dave Brown was on the ice. Dave went crazy and wanted to get at the defenseman. I cut him off and tried to keep him from getting to Konstatinoff…it seemed to me at the time that i wrestled with him for an hour, when in actual time it was probably only a minute to minute and a half. I finally got him close enough to the bench that I think it was Craig Berube yelled at Dave and he came back to reality, stopped wrestling with me. I guided him top the players bench. I have never in my career been that tired after restraining a player from trying to get at another.”

Dane – “Who is the toughest and most passionate player or coach you ever officiated? Was there someone who would give you a hard time on the ice, but when the game over, and all was said and done you just called a truce?”

Canada's head coach Quinn watches his team's practice at the 2009 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa in this file photo

 

Mike – “Oh there was lots of passionate players and coached through my career….Pat Quinn, god rest his soul…Terry Crisp…Michel Bergeron, coach of the Nordiques, Doug Risebrough, Glen Sather, John Torterellia, Doug McLean, Ken Hitchcock, Theo Fleury, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, just to name a few. You dont get to the NHL level and stay there unless you have a great passion for the game. Pretty much all of them could be tough during the game, but the attitude was what happened on the ice stayed on the ice…games over so why relive it…”

Dane – “Thanks for joining us today! Hope you enjoy your time off the ice.”

Mike – “Thanks Dane…it was a pleasure to chat with you and go down memory lane and recall some of the best things, albeit a fraction of what i can remember from 29 years in the NHL.

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