He was a wonder to watch skating up and down the ice. Somehow he made an icing call exciting. After the whistle had blown he would fly in after the puck, pick it up at full speed and scurry down the ice to deliver it to his partner before screeching to a snowy stop at the blueline, ready for the next play.
Ray Scapinello officiated in 2,500 NHL regular season and 426 playoff games. Right up until he retired after 33 years in the league, he was at the top of his profession. Whenever there was an important game or series Scapinello got the call working in 20 Stanley Cup finals and the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Born in Guelph in 1946, “Scampi” worked his way up through the ranks after playing junior hockey. He officiated in the OHA and AHL before debuting in the NHL in 1971. Although short in stature, he was regularly called upon to break up fights between much larger players. While he took a few knocks over the years, the players respect for him always showed. When he said the fight was over, they listened. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of his illustrious career was the fact he never once missed an assignment. He said “I had a slogan that every day was game day. I would eat, workout and mentally prepare day in and day out which allowed me to never miss a game due to injury or illness.” His fitness level was unmatched by his peers.
It is hard to imagine the thrill of working games with the likes of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but he saw each one of them work their magic at ice level.
Upon retirement Scapinello became a regular at the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre as an official’s supervisor for the Ontario Hockey League. He also has been a tireless worker for charities, gathering collectibles during the hockey season he could donate to a number of charity auctions. He also runs the Ray Scapinello Road Hockey tournament to raise money for youth as part of the Guelph Community Foundation.
Inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame – Officials category – on May 10, 2006