Francois St. Laurent

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Francois St. Laurent
A man wearing a striped shirt with orange armbands, on the ice during a hockey game
St. Laurent in the 2009-10 season
Born (1977-06-26) June 26, 1977 (age 41)
Greenfield Park, Quebec, Canada
Occupation Ice hockey referee
Years active 1999–present

Francois St. Laurent (born 26 June 1977[1]) is a French-Canadian ice hockey referee, currently working in the National Hockey League. In the summer of 1999, during a camp held by Ron Fournier, he told RDS that his goal was to make it to the NHL.[2] Said to have "an exceptional talent",[3] he became a Level VI referee in the Hockey Canada Officiating Program during a seminar in November 2001, held in Halifax, Nova Scotia.[4]

He has worn sweater number 38 since joining the league full-time in the 2009-10 NHL season, carrying it over from the American Hockey League after six seasons.[a]

Officiating career[edit]

Pre-junior league[edit]

In 1998 and 1999, St. Laurent worked the Coupe Dodge championship.[5] He also participated in the 2000 Air Canada Cup, held in Montreal, Quebec.[6]

Juniors to professional career[edit]

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League[edit]

St. Laurent joined the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1999, working 30 regular-season games and seven playoff games as a linesman. His first game in the league was on 10 September 1999, when he worked a game between the Val-d'Or Foreurs and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.[7] In the 2000-2001 season, he transitioned to a referee; the first regular-season game he worked as a referee came on 22 September 2000, as he worked the game between the Shawinigan Cataractes and Drummondville Voltigeurs.[8] It would be the first of 115 regular-season games he worked between the 00-01 and 02-03 seasons. St. Laurent would also work in 24 playoff games.[9] He worked the President's Cup finals in both 2002[10][11] and 2003.[12]

He worked the 2002 Memorial Cup,[13] including the final game between the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL and the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League.[14]

American Hockey League[edit]

As he began to work games in the QMJHL, St. Laurent was hired by the American Hockey League as a linesman for the 1999-00 AHL season.[citation needed] He spent four years working the lines in the AHL before he was hired by the NHL as a referee,[15][b] mainly staying put in his home province to work games for the Quebec Citadelles.[16] Besides working Citadelles games, he would also work games in Ontario (Hamilton Bulldogs),[17] New Brunswick (Saint John Flames),[18] and Newfoundland (St. John's Maple Leafs);[19] all three of which came in the 2002-03 AHL season.

St. Laurent working an AHL game in 2009

His first regular-season AHL game as a newly-hired referee came on 11 October 2003, in a game between the Providence Bruins and Worcester IceCats.[20] During his stint in the AHL, St. Laurent worked the Calder Cup finals in 2008[21] and 2009.[22] He also worked the AHL All-Star Classic in 2009, held in Worcester, Massachusetts.[23]

During the 2015-16 AHL season, St. Laurent worked two games in the month of January, marking his first games in the league since the summer of 2009.[24][25] The games were what appeared to be part of a rehabilitation assignment. He had missed two and a half months due to an unknown reason, and returned to the NHL in February 2016.[26]

National Hockey League[edit]

St. Laurent was hired by the National Hockey League in the fall of 2003,[27] as one of six officials signed that year. The number he had been assigned was in use by referee Craig Spada.[28][c]

Although he was hired in 2003, St. Laurent did not work in the NHL that season. Due to the 2004-05 NHL lockout,[d] his first regular-season National Hockey League game came on 10 November 2005, in a game between the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins.[29] He worked in ten other games that season, bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the American Hockey League. After working in 66 regular-season games over the course of four seasons,[30] he would make the jump to the NHL officiating roster full-time at the start of the 2009-10 NHL season.[31] His first game as a full-time official came on 2 October 2009, in a game between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.[32]

In October 2011, then-Director of Officiating Terry Gregson was asked to briefly assess St. Laurent, among other officials in the NHL at the time. Gregson said that St. Laurent was one of the "very good young referees" at the time of the evaluation.[33]

Stanley Cup playoffs[edit]

After working in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs as a standby in select first round games,[34][e] St. Laurent was named to the main playoff roster each year since, appearing in eight straight postseasons.[35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42] He has made the second round twice in his career, picking up on-ice assignments for games in 2017[43] and 2018.[44]

Notable games[edit]

Coyotes/Canadiens, 05-06 season[edit]

At the end of the 13 December 2005 game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens, Phoenix's Shane Doan received a gross misconduct for his comments towards St. Laurent and the other officials who worked the game.[45] After the game, a report was sent to the league, stating that Doan had called the officials "fucking Frenchmen". Doan denied the comments. The NHL, after going over the allegations, found no evidence that he had used slurs to describe the officials; all of four of which were French-Canadian.[46] It was the last time a gross misconduct was given out in the National Hockey League, as the rule was removed from the book after the 2006-07 season.[47]

Sharks/Bruins, 05-06 season[edit]

In a game between the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins, played on 10 January 2006, San Jose's Joe Thornton received a major penalty for checking Boston's Hal Gill and a game misconduct.[48] The game was Thornton's first game back in Boston after a trade between the two teams earlier in the 2005-06 season. St. Laurent and partner referee Chris Rooney issued the penalties five minutes into the first period. Rooney commented on the hit after the game, saying that Gill was defenseless at the time of the hit.[49]

Predators/Sharks, 06-07 season[edit]

Early in the third period of a game between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks, played on 9 December 2006, St. Laurent sustained an injury to his knee.[50] The injury was later revealed to be a torn knee ligament,[51] which would keep him from working NHL games until late-January (although he would work AHL games two weeks before that time).[citation needed]

Capitals/Flyers line brawl, 13-14 season[edit]

St. Laurent worked a game between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers on 1 November 2013. After a third period goal scored by Washington's Joel Ward, a fight broke out between Capitals player Tom Wilson and Flyers player Wayne Simmonds. As the fight was taking place, Flyers goaltender Ray Emery skated down the ice to challenge Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, which Holtby declined. When Emery said "just protect yourself",[52] St. Laurent attempted to stop the fight, but couldn't when Emery began to punch Holtby. St. Laurent stopped various Capitals players from jumping in to stop Emery and did not stop the fight when Holtby fell to the ice. Emery was assessed penalties for leaving the crease (2 minutes), instigating (2 minutes), fighting (5 minutes), a ten-minute misconduct, and a game misconduct for his actions.[53][54]

Through the week after the fight, the opinions about St. Laurent's actions were varied from different members of the media. Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski called St. Laurent a "joke" on the Monday afterwards, saying that he thought St. Laurent was "controlling the game".[55] Calmer opinions came from Elliotte Friedman (then of CBC), who said that St. Laurent "tried to stop" the two combatants, yet "backed out" when the fight happened;[56] and Darren Dreger of TSN, who said that St. Laurent "couldn't rely on the linesmen" because of the multiple fights.[57]

Lightning/Canadiens, 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs[edit]

On 22 April 2014, St. Laurent worked Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning.[58] During the second intermission, CBC's Ron MacLean spoke up about St. Laurent's participation in the game, saying that he "would not have been a popular choice for the Tampa Bay Lightning".[59] MacLean's comment stemmed from an incident in Game Three, where a goal for Tampa Bay was waved off by another French-Canadian referee. He had also said that due to Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper's comments about the call, St. Laurent was thrown into Game Four "to send a message", when he had been assigned to the game before the playoffs began. MacLean apologized for his comments later that night, also saying that he wouldn't have minded if St. Laurent had worked in a later game of the series.[60]

Blackhawks/Capitals, 2015 Winter Classic[edit]

St. Laurent worked the 2015 NHL Winter Classic, a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals held at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.[61] It was his first assignment to the Winter Classic.

Late in the third period, he called a hooking penalty on Chicago's Jonathan Toews. Toews didn't appreciate the call, saying "that's the worst [expletive] call I've ever seen".[62] Washington's Troy Brouwer would score on the power play, giving the Capitals the win.[63] Epix's mini-series Road to the NHL Winter Classic showed the penalty call to Toews, with St. Laurent giving an explanation to the Blackhawks captain as to what he saw.[64]

Jets/Lightning, 15-16 season[edit]

Late in the second period of a game between the Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning, played on 18 February 2016, Anton Stralman delivered a questionable hit to Bryan Little. St. Laurent and partner Dan O'Rourke did not issue penalties on the hit. (Blake Wheeler and Stralman would get penalties for roughing, while Stralman would not be suspended.[65] Little ended up missing the rest of the regular season because of a T6 vertebrae fracture.[66]) Upon hearing that there would be no further penalties towards Stralman, Jets coach Paul Maurice took exception to what he had heard from the referees. Based on his comments, the Jets would receive a bench minor.[67]

Upon coming back to the bench for the start of the third period, Maurice would be sent back to the locker room, as he was ejected by St. Laurent.[68] TSN, the network covering the game for the Jets, showed St. Laurent looking at the bench. Another shot showed what appeared to be him laughing about something; this gave the commentators the impression that the laughter stemmed from him ejecting Maurice. Said Maurice after the game: "I would say that would then have been consistent with their overall demeanor regarding the incident."[69]

Aftermath[edit]

A few days after the incident, Maurice was fined $5,000 for what he said about the referees.[70] In September 2016, St. Laurent revealed that his laughter was unrelated to Maurice; Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien cracked a joke shortly after the ejection.[71]

Blues/Blackhawks, 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs[edit]

During the 19 April 2016 playoff game between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago's Andrew Shaw received an interference penalty late in the third period.[72] Prior to the next faceoff, as Shaw was in the penalty box, he directed a homophobic slur towards the on-ice officials. Shaw was suspended one game, was fined $5,000, and underwent sensitivity training.[73] While talking to the media after the game, Shaw said that he could not remember what he had said; it was after he watched the incident afterwards that he apologized for his actions.[74] He said that he was "sincerely sorry for the insensitive remarks that [he] made".[75]

Oilers/Jets, 2016 Heritage Classic[edit]

On 23 October 2016, St. Laurent was announced as one of the referees who would be working the 2016 Heritage Classic, a game between the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, held at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba.[76]

Coyotes/Golden Knights, 17-18 season[edit]

During the 2017-18 NHL season, St. Laurent was scheduled to work the game between the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights on 10 October 2017, played at T-Mobile Arena.[77] The game was the first home game in the history of the Golden Knights; the pregame recognized the first responders and paid tribute to the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.[78]

Avalanche/Predators, 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs[edit]

St. Laurent had been assigned to work a first round game between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators, played on 20 April 2018.[79] Towards the end of the first period, he left the game due to an unknown injury.[80][citation needed] As he was being assessed for the injury, standby referee Eric Furlatt was called to replace St. Laurent for the duration of the game. St. Laurent returned for his next assignment, three days later.[81]

Lightning/Bruins, 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs[edit]

Early in the third period of a second round game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, held on 4 May 2018, St. Laurent fell down on his own as the Bruins were entering the offensive zone. He hit the boards on his left side, but continued to work the period.[82] During the intermission between the third period and overtime, it was revealed that he would not be able to work in the extra period due to an injury.[83] Brad Watson, who was the standby official assigned by the league for the game, took St. Laurent's place for overtime.

On the evening of 5 May, it was announced that St. Laurent suffered a broken collarbone in the fall.[84]

International tournaments[edit]

During the 2002-2003 ice hockey season, St. Laurent was assigned to work the 2003 IIHF World Championship Division 1A tournament, held in Budapest, Hungary.[85] He worked each day of the tournament, with five games in the five days of play.[citation needed]

Television appearances[edit]

Before the 2005-06 NHL season, TVA's LCN en Bref interviewed St. Laurent. During the interview, he said that he was on a five-year contract, as he gained experience between the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League.[86][f]

In a 2010 episode of HBO's 24/7 series involving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, St. Laurent was seen talking to Bruce Boudreau about penalties that were issued early in the first period of a preview of the teams' Winter Classic.[87][citation needed] The next year, during the 24/7 series involving the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, a quick camera shot showed him giving Ryan Callahan a cross-checking penalty.[88]

A segment during an October 2015 episode of NESN's Behind the B followed St. Laurent through the course of the Boston Bruins' home opener against the Winnipeg Jets.[89]

Off-ice contributions[edit]

In the winter of 2007, St. Laurent took part in the first "Zebras Care" program that the National Hockey League Officials Association put together.[90]

As part of the 40th anniversary of the Officials Association, a logo was created by St. Laurent to help commemorate the milestone.[91]

Between 2013 and 2015, St. Laurent ran a summer development camp for referees. Camps were held in Saint-Constant, Quebec in 2014[92] and Brossard, Quebec in 2015.[93] In the 2015 camp, the participants worked games in L’Expérience HockeySuprématie.com, a tournament with proceeds going towards various charities.[94]

During the summer of 2014, he was a speaker in Hockey Quebec's Provincial Elite Officials Program.[95]

Personal life[edit]

St. Laurent was a goaltender growing up, while spending the late stages of his playing career on the bench as the backup.[96]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Early in his AHL career, referees and linesmen did not wear numbers on their sweaters.
  2. ^ St. Laurent may have been working AHL games as a referee as early as the 2002-03 AHL season.
  3. ^ Number 38 would not be the only number to be assigned to two officials that season: 40 was issued to both Steve Kozari and Jay Sharrers, while 45 was issued to both Justin St. Pierre and Ian Walsh.
  4. ^ He had worked a second full season in the AHL that year.
  5. ^ The reference listed would be one of seven games he would be a standby in during the playoffs in 2010.
  6. ^ The five-year contract may have started while St. Laurent was working between the AHL and NHL in the 2005-06 hockey season.

References[edit]

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