Seattle Sailors coach Stewart Corrigan is quickly gaining a reputation around the SHL for his volatile temper. That temper boiled over in a memorable way on Thursday as Corrigan exploded at a referee, earning himself an ejection and a forthcoming suspension.
“I was too young to see Mount St. Helens erupt,” said Sailors RW “King George” Lane. “But now I know what it was like.”
Corrigan’s short fuse wasn’t a complete shock. As a junior-league coach, he earned the nickname “Popeye” due to the way his eyes would bulge during frequent rants at referees. But this was the first time the coach had gone “full Code Red” (to use his term) during an SHL game.
During the first period of Seattle’s game against the Dakota Rapids, the referees called several controversial penalties against the Sailors. A call Corrigan thought was a clear tripping penalty against Dakota instead became a diving penalty against Seattle. Less than 5 minutes later, Sailors D Joey “Pig Iron” Morris was whistled for a borderline high-sticking call. Corrigan argued both calls to no avail, and grew steadily angrier as the period went on, barking at the referees as they skated by.
“You could kind of see him changing color,” said Sailors C Cliff Derringer. “By the end of the period, he sort of looked like a tomato in a suit.”
Finally, with less than two minutes left in the period, head referee Ted Kowalski called a delay of game penalty on Sailors RW Yann Eberlein after he shot the puck over the glass, even though Eberlein and the Sailors vigorously insisted that the puck had tipped off a Dakota stick before going out.
This was too much for Corrigan to bear, and he yelled at Kowalski to come over to the Seattle bench. Kowalski either didn’t hear Corrigan or ignored him. The coach then stood on the bench and yelled louder. Receiving no response, he began banging his hands against the boards to attract Kowalski’s attention. Kowalski still didn’t come over. Finally, Corrigan grabbed a roll of athletic tape and fired it at Kowalski, hitting the official in the helmet.
Kowalski whirled around, and Corrigan shouted, “Yeah, you can hear me now, you fat Polack [expletive]!”
Kowalski immediately ejected Corrigan from the game, and skated away as the coach continued screaming at him. Corrigan grabbed an armful of sticks and threw them on the ice. It took two players and assistant coach Mark Morganhurst to restrain Corrigan. The crowd at Century 21 Arena gave Corrigan a standing ovation as he was dragged off down the tunnel, still shouting and cursing.
The league held a hearing on Saturday morning and announced that Corrigan would be suspended for two games and fined $5,000 for his actions. “There is no excuse for coaches or players to attack a referee physically,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “Mr. Corrigan’s actions were dangerous and irresponsible. Also, his ethnic insult was entirely inappropriate.”
At a press conference following the announcement of the discipline, Corrigan admitted that he had gone over the line. “I’ve always had the Irish temper,” said the coach. “Usually it takes a good bit of liquor to bring it out, but games can do it too. Although I didn’t agree with the referee’s calls, that doesn’t give me license to throw things at him.” Still, Corrigan couldn’t help but let a hint of pride creep in: “I will say I was pretty impressed with my aim. He was, what, 30 feet away? At least? For me to bean a moving target from that kind of distance, I mean, that’s pretty solid.”