Guelph’s Scott Driscoll may have retired from his official job with the NHL, but he’s not about to skate away from hockey.
Last month, Driscoll was named assistant coach for the University of Guelph Gryphons varsity women’s hockey team.
“About a year ago I had knee surgery and was rehabilitating alone in college,” Driscoll said during a Zoom video chat. “I came by to see Coach Rachel (Flanagan) and Coach Katie (Mora) and I said, ‘Look, I understand you have lost one of your assistants from your national championship team. I know you’ll probably want to fill it up at some point and I’m just going to throw this away. If it is still available in a year, I will retire and have a huge hockey background between playing and management and would love to get into coaching.
“I coached a bit with my youngest son’s hockey teams, including his Bishop Macdonell junior boys team, which I loved. I’ve had a great experience. It’s something I’d like to switch to. I don’t really see many opportunities arising in the managerial world, but this coaching is something I would like to do. “
He had a bit of a trial during the 2019-20 OUA women’s hockey season and it went well.
“I went to watch a few (Gryphon) games over the year and I would give my thoughts and my evaluation,” he said. “In the end, I saw a few recruits playing and gave feedback. When I officially retired, I reached out again and we talked. I am really excited. I am looking forward to a new challenge and it will be great fun. “
Driscoll concluded his NHL career in March of this year at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and worked on a game between the Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, his 1,847th regular season game. His first was a game between the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins at Boston Garden during the opening week of the 1992 season.
He has also worked 185 playoff games, including games in the 2004, 2007 and 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. He also worked on the 2004 NHL All-Star Game, 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 2014 Winter Classic Games and this year.
Driscoll’s last game came a little earlier in March than originally planned, as he was scheduled to finish his career about a week and a half later, but the game he chose as his scheduled exit game was one of the NHL’s regular season games. eventually canceled due to the pandemic.
“It was disappointing at the time,” he said. ‘It’s like planning a wedding. I had nearly 100 people coming to the game. I rented a bar. I picked my favorite location in the entire NHL, Madison Square Garden in New York City. I had so many people attending and it was going to be kind of a trip / adventure as they were going to New York city. Many people came from my small town (Seaforth, Ont.). When it happened I was hoping we would be able to get it one day, but then the season was canceled and we were told we wouldn’t be back. “
The initial disappointment subsided and the Guelphite believes his last game in Toronto was ultimately a fitting one.
“I like to put things in perspective,” he said. “All I’ll say is I’m a real big World War II, D-Day specifically, (buff). What I’ve read, and I’m currently rereading Stephen Ambrose’s D Day, Canada on Juno Beach, we killed 350 men on D Day. Young Canadians. After that they had no future. For people who lost people in the pandemic, for me to be upset that I missed a hockey game, that’s not right. I got over it and moved on.
“I like to think that things happen for a reason. Ironically, I now had my last game in Toronto. It was my 68th game of the season, and that’s my number. The Leafs were great to me. “
The Leafs gave Driscoll a signed Darryl Sittler jersey – he was a Sittler fan before he became an NHL official. He also had his entire family in attendance, saw a video tribute of his career during the first commercial break and the last player to shake his hand was one for whom he developed tremendous respect, Jason Spezza of the Leafs.
“I actually gave him one of my jerseys that I wore in the first period,” said Driscoll. ‘I signed it and handed it over to him. He’s just a very, very, very stylish guy and a nice guy. He doesn’t take the game too seriously. He wants to win, but at the same time, he’s just a really warm young guy on the ice and I started to like him very much. “
The friendship with Spezza started a bit by accident.
“I played a playoff game with Ottawa and there was a close play. There was a puck shot out of play. We came together as a squad and we said it was deflected and (Spezza) and I believe it was two other players, (Daniel) Alfredsson and maybe Chris Phillips, they were over in a commercial timeout.
“They were over and ‘You better look at that play. You better go watch that game after the game.” And I’m like, “I don’t watch that game after the game.” And Jason said, “Why not?” I said, “You know what, Jason? When I get home tomorrow, I’ll have to cook, clean, and do laundry. I’ve got a lot of things on my way. I’m not going to watch a play that I’ve seen 100 percent live.”
About three weeks later there was another playoff game in Ottawa and a puck was shot out of the game. Bryan Campbell had shot him out, but he’d just gotten to the blueline, so it wasn’t a penalty. He was out of his zone, it was not a penalty. He (the referee) called and I was adamant to my colleagues. ‘No, he was at the blueline. He was with the blueline. Unknowingly at the beginning of the next period, Spezza came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I just want you to know. I checked your call and you were right. ‘I said’ Thank you. ‘ “No, because when you get home you have to cook and clean and you have to do the laundry and you don’t have time to look at that.” I was like, “You funny guy.” After that we had a good relationship. “
Driscoll was playing minor hockey in his hometown of Seaforth when he held the position. It wasn’t something he originally intended to do, but it just came his way.
They needed young officials and a lady named Joyce McClure came up to me and asked if I was interested in taking charge … the young children. Myself and two of my friends decided to get our level 1 and the following year we got our level 2 and the rest is history. I have really enjoyed it. It was fun. I was on the ice rink. I was skating. I was part of the hockey game and I got a little bit of money at the end of the day. I was like, ‘Wow, this is great to get paid to do something you enjoy.’ So it just went from there. There is no other way I can describe it. I accidentally fell into it and I’m glad it happened. “
Now he’s looking forward to joining the coaching staff of the Gryphons women’s team and feels like he has a lot to offer.
“Part of the office is that I could go up and down in front of the benches of some of the best coaches in the world. It’s almost osmosis, I hear what they say and it makes sense. If I watched my son’s team play, especially recently when he was playing midget AAA or junior B, I would see the teams making these mistakes. I would be ‘That’s intuitive. Why do you do that? Why don’t you get the red line before you shoot the puck across the ice? Why do you turn into your own side with the puck? ‘Little things like that make the difference in the game. I look forward to conveying some of that wisdom (to the Gryphons coaches and players). It’s all about transferring knowledge to them and it gets exciting. “