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On This Date in Sports May 8, 1988: Have Another Donut

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Amateur officials are used for Game 4 of the Wales Conference Finals in Meadowlands, as the New Jersey Devils even the series against the Boston Bruins with a 3-1 win. The regular officials were protesting an injunction that stopped New Jersey coach Jim Schoenfeld from being suspended for his incident with Don Koharski following their loss in Game 3. The officials returned for Game 5 as Schoenfeld served his suspension.

After struggling their first five seasons, the New Jersey Devils made the playoffs for the first time in 1988, clinching their playoff spot dramatically with an overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks by John MacLean on the final day of the season. Closing the season with a 10-2-1 record over their last 13 games, the Devils continued to play strong hockey in the playoffs as they stunned the Patrick Division Champion New York Islanders in six games. Highlighted by Patrick Sundstrom’s eight-point night in Game 3, the Devils would beat the Washington Capitals in seven games in the Patrick Division Finals. The Devils won 3-2 at the Cap Centre in the finale, with MacLean scoring the game-winner in the third period.

The Devils moved on to face the Boston Bruins in the Wales Conference Finals. After losing the opener 5-3 at the Boston Garden, the Devils continued to show their resilience winning Game 2 in overtime 3-2 on a goal by Doug Brown. Game 3 at the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands would be frustrating for the Devils, as they lost 6-1. After the game, coach Jim Schoenfeld confronted referee Don Koharski. As the two walked down the tunnel, Koharski tripped and fell, claiming that Schoenfeld pushed him. After Koharski fell, the Devils coach yelled, “You fell, you fat pig, have another donut.”

The NHL fined and suspended Jim Schoenfeld for one game the following day. Schoenfeld made an unprecedented appeal to the New Jersey judiciary, which granted Schoenfeld an injunction allowing him to coach the Devils for Game 4. As the two teams prepared to play, referee Dave Newell and the two linesmen, Gord Broseker and Ron Asselstine, refused to take the ice if Schoenfeld coached the Devils. Two minutes before the game began, the game was delayed as replacement officials were sought. After an hour delay, Paul McInnis, who ran an ice rink in Yonkers, served as the referee after taking the ice in a yellow sweater, as Vin Godleski and Jim Sullivan served as the game’s linesmen. With goals from David Maley and Pat Verbeek within 45 seconds of each other, the Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Bruins cut the lead to one goal with a power-play goal from Cam Neely in the second period. In the third period, the Devils would get a goal from Tom Kurvers and win the game 3-1 as Sean Burke stopped 33 of 34 shots. The game, meanwhile, was full of penalties and fights as amateur officials lost control.

The injunction that prevented Jim Schoenfeld from serving his suspension would be lifted the following days. The Devils coach missed Game 5 in Boston, allowing the regular officials to return as the Bruins won 7-1. Schoenfeld returned for Game 6, as the Devils won 6-3 to force a seventh game. The Bruins would win 6-2 at the Boston Garden to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.