Tony Sericolo ended his career as an NHL linesman in style last Saturday in a game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
That contest was the 1,500th career game for the Guilderland resident — and, after 23 years in the league, the Watervliet native and 1987 La Salle Institute graduate decided that was the perfect way to call it a career.
Sericolo’s previous two games were memorable, too. He was one of the linesmen for the recent two-game series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. In the first of those games, Capitals right winger Tom Wilson punched Rangers right winger Pavel Buchnevich while he was on the ice, and then threw a helmetless left winger Artemi Panarin to the ice, injuring him and ending his season.
The league fined Wilson $5,000 for his actions, but didn’t suspend him. In the rematch two days later, the teams fought several times during the first period, including three players on each team fighting with one another just a second after the opening faceoff.
“It’s not like we go in there and pre-meditate anything,” Sericolo said. “We let the game flow. We weren’t expecting that. Sometimes, it’s just letting the game happen and what unfolds.”
The Daily Gazette caught up with Sericolo Wednesday to discuss his career. (The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)
Q: What were your emotions like last Saturday?
A: It was overwhelming. A lot of my close friends were there; I got to pick my crew that I wanted to work with. Those were my closer friends on the staff. It was just overwhelming, all the messages from coaches and players, and mostly my colleagues who I’ve been on the ice with for 23 years. It’s a lonely job, but we have a pretty good camaraderie. We support each other. That was pretty evident when I was retiring.
Q: At the end of the game, seeing both teams and coaching staffs come over to congratulate you, what did that mean to you?
A: It kind of shows you what you meant in the game, even though emotions fly high, sometimes. At the end of the day, we’re all coaches ,players, officials. We’re all in it together on the ice and we want the best thing for the game. It just showed the human side of everybody on the ice.
Q: You played college hockey at American International and helped lead the team to the ECAC Division II championship. After you finished your collegiate career, what led you to go into officiating?
A: I was the captain of my team my senior year. At that time, we had to talk to the officials on what they were going to call and what they weren’t going to call. . . . A local guy named Harry Ammian, who I worked so many games with in the American Hockey League, he was one of the officials I talked to [one] night, and he says, “If you don’t have a job, why don’t you start officiating?” I thought, “OK, I’ll think about it.”
Well, I couldn’t find a job. I got some work at Mike DeRossi’s Sports, a little sporting goods store in Guilderland. I was there for eight years. I wanted to skate a little bit. I wanted to do something in the game, so I called Harry. He was the one that got me going.
Q: What do you remember about your first NHL game on Oct. 21, 1998, a game between the Islanders and Edmonton Oilers?
A: I remember I was really nervous. I remember being in the hotel room thinking, “Oh my God. I can’t believe I’ve come this far.”
Q: What are some of the more memorable games you officiated?
A: I worked the Olympics in Torino [in 2006]. That was nice. I worked some outdoor games. Believe it or not, some of the games you work toward the end of the season that have a lot of impact on the playoffs and who gets into the playoffs are really exciting games. They don’t get mentioned a lot. But those games in early April, late March, those are really exciting games.
The Daily Gazette’s full interview with Sericolo can be heard on the next edition of “The Parting Schotts Podcast,” which will be posted on Thursday. Also on this week’s podcast will be Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press to discuss the Preakness Stakes and the Stanley Cup playoffs, and NewsChannel 13 anchor Benita Zahn who announced last week that she is leaving the station after nearly 40 years.