When Scott Adams was playing defense for Neshaminy High School back in the ‘70s and occasionally stopping play due to some sort of infraction, little did he know he would one day be the one whistling action to a standstill.
But decades later, that’s exactly what happened and his love for the game made the decision to “go stripes’’ a life-changing one for the good.
Since the early ‘90s, he’s been either working in the American Hockey League as a referee (or helping to teach other young referees) or as an NHL off-ice official, often sitting next to the legendary public address announcer Lou Nolan at rink-side.
Last Saturday, he worked his last regular-season game. He plans to retire to southern Delaware in the near future.
High school hockey was a bit rough-and-tumble back in Adams’ day (some say it still is) but the physical side of the game appealed to him. Maybe that’s what drew him into becoming an “enforcer’’ of a different kind.
“I grew up in Levittown,’’ he says. “Mostly I was a defenseman with not a lot of offense capabilities but loved to battle in front of the net and love the corners.
“Hockey was a little rough back then. I started to referee to make a little money during my college years and USA hockey saw me and moved me up the ladder relatively quick.’’
Breaking up fights is a big part of an official’s job. Adams had the size to handle some of the game’s biggest men.
“At that time they were looking for guys that were tall and big mostly because the game was very physical back then,’’ he says.
“And being 6-foot-4 helps with sight lines.
“The next thing you know I am off to Lake Placid for training and then eventually Colorado Springs, then refereeing Flyers’ intra-squad games in the summer, working my way all the way up to the American League.’’
By the time the end rolled around on Saturday (he’s actually not quite done yet, as the Flyers are in the playoffs), a lot of memories came flooding back.
“I talked to (Flyers general manager Ron) Hextall coming in today (Saturday) and told him I was leaving,’’ Adams says. “He said, you know, it’s people like you who make this game great. That was a really nice thing for him to say right out of the blue.
“I’m emotionally torn. You think about all the games you were involved with growing up and it comes back to you fast.’’
Adams refereed a dozen NHL games back in the early ‘90s but he spent 20 years in the AHL.
“While I was refereeing I had received a letter in the mail from the National Hockey League for a new position that they were starting in the penalty box as a commercial coordinator,’’ Adams says.
“I actually thought this was a joke set up by my friend Michael Condon who I worked with in the American Hockey League and was already working as an off-ice official in Philadelphia. He was quite the jokester and a very good linesman.
“Once I confirmed this was not a joke I received a couple of plane tickets to take me to Toronto to the Hall of Fame where we had our hockey meetings. After our meetings in the late summer, then one month later now I am sitting right next to all the players that I dreamed about growing up watching on TV and idolizing.’’
A career highlight was working the January, 2017 alumni game between the Flyers and Penguins. A lot of talent on that sheet of ice.
“It was a little boy’s dream come true,’’ Adams says. “Here I was at the end of my career refereeing Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Tim Kerr, Dave Poulin, Jimmy and Joe Watson, Dave Schultz, Danny Briere, Simone Gagne and on and on.
“I was at the end of my career and they have been done for a few years. It was a real treat for me to be there on the ice one last time, like I was a little kid back on the ponds in Twin Oaks and Neshaminy High School.’’
Sure enough, it’s a kid’s game all right. One you never outgrow.