Andy Van Hellemond's philosophy for officiating hockey games is to follow the rule book, which seems sensible. It is not, however, a policy that is likely to endear him to the Boston Bruins and their 14,602 bearish backers when Van Hellemond referees tonight's sixth game of the Stanley Cup final at Boston Garden (WETA-TV-26 at 8 p.m.)
The Bruins, who hooked and hacked and wrestled their way to a five -game semifinal victory over Philadelphia, are unhappy that similar tactics in this series have created revolving doors to the penalty boxes and helped to put them one defeat from a summer vacation.
A total of 36 penalties, 20 against Boston, brougth some outraged response from the Bruins after they dropped a 4-1 decision here Tuesday in which none of the goals was scored with both teams at full strength.
"I thought they only fixed things in horse racing," fumed defenseman Brad Park."We might as well turn our sticks over and play with the knobs, that's how much they're handicapping us."
Similar comments from team president Paul Mooney. Coach Don Cherry and assorted hangers-on in the Bruins' large entourage might lead a non-viewer to think that Referee Dave Newell was wearing a Montreal uniform.
Actually, it appeared to some neutrals that Newell was showing leniency to the Bruins until the first minute of the third period, when Boston's Terry O'Reillly angrily fired a puck between Newell and linesman Leon Stickle. Newell ejected O'Reilly and whistled every infraction the rest of the way.
Montreal players who spent much of the night ducking sticks and dodging elbows let it be known that they would go all out to try to end the series tonight, while they were still healthy.
"Disgusting," said winger Rejean Houle. "The sticks, the salshes. If somebody dosen't stop it, somebody is going to end up in the hospital. I can't believe that anybody wants this. The fans, nobody. They're going to kill this game. I was scared out there."
"How can anybody compalin about the refereeing when stuff like that goes on?" asked defenseman Guy Lapointe. "How can anybody play the game that way? What are the good players supposed to do? Isn't anybody interested in putting a good show? Aren't the fans paying to see a good show?"
What the fans saw, according to one Montreal columnist, was "a circus, where only the saw-dust was missing."
Thanks to a stipulation that each referee watch the game before the one he works. Van Hellemond was a spectator at the Forum on Tuesday. Having seen what the Bruins were beefing about, the 30-years-old Winnepeg native is unlikely to be moved to sympathy calls.
Van Hellemond always has had a reputation for calling them close, even tighter than Newell. There was considerable comment when referee-in-chief Scotty Morrison selected Van Hellmond, Newell and Bob Myers to officiate the finals, passing up more senior referees.
"All I'd like to know," Boston defensemam Gary Doak said, "it why we don't have (Bruce) Hood or (John) McCauley doing the games. They're the best."
Hood and McCauley also are the most lenient, and McCauley officiated the final game of the Philadelphia series, in which the Flyers did not have a power play for the last 58 minutes, despite Boston's tactic of tackling anyone who skated near the net.
Van Hellmond officiated the third game of this series, won by Boston, 4-0. Each team was assesed only four penalties and the Bruins seemingly proved they were capable of beating Montreal with a hard, clean checking game.
Apparently they were unable to convince themselves.
Referees of Stanley Cup final games are under incredible pressure and it is not unusual for them to stay awake all night after working, as they wind dowm the strain. Van Hellemond, however, is cooler than most.
"I'll sit around about a half-hour after a game," he said. "That's about all it takes. I don't lie awake thinking about the game. If I made a mistake, it's too late to do anything about it."