"There is no way anyone can train for this job. The next commissioner must be a lawyer, or he must have permanent counsel in the office. You're like a judge, setting precedents. It is essential to make clear rulings. It is an enormous advantage to have been trained as a lawyer. I never had any doubt, either, that I wanted to be a lawyer. I had no formal teaching from grade nine through 12—just help from the principal. This was in Saskatchewan. But I had an excellent childhood, excellent. If you live in a small town, as I did, you are the center of everything if you can do things well.
"Yes, everyone wants to hear about the Maurice Richard suspension [in 1955]. This was after he had the fight in Boston, but it is important to remember that I had warned him after an almost identical incident in Toronto three weeks prior. I warned him I would suspend him if it ever happened again. He had been making a profit out of every fine I laid on him. If I fined him $250, he'd get $2,500 [in donations]. You could not tolerate this frustration of league authority. And the violence in the league then had reached an alarming stage.
"The blood had to stop. I'd drive to games with the owners, and they were petrified at what might happen on the ice, but they were frightened that I would monkey with a good product.
"Now, there was a precedent for not carrying a suspension into the playoffs, for starting it up again the next regular season. I thought that was a helluva poor decision, and I haven't changed my mind to this day. It had to be all or nothing. You've got to remember that this coincided with an enormous sociological upheaval. It was just the beginning of the French movement, and the only man in Quebec better known than Richard was the Prime Minister.
"But, no, I wasn't scared. It never occurred to me not to go to the game the night after I suspended him. I took the lady who is now my wife and her sister and another girl. There was a mob assembled out front of The Forum, but we walked the gauntlet. You see, they were taken as much by surprise by me as I was by them. It reminded me of once, years before, when I refereed a game in Trail, B.C. We were coming out of the Fruit Show Building in the Italian end, and the fans were mad at some of my decisions and waiting for me. Another official, Pat McIntyre, said, 'I'll take your bag and you take the scabbards off your skates.' And I did. Carried one in each hand. It was pretty much the same feeling this time going into The Forum.
"But inside I didn't feel so secure. They were throwing things. Vegetables—ripe vegetables. Some bottles smashed in front of me, and then I knew I was in trouble. I suggested the girls go, and they did, except my wife—the lady who was to become my wife. The crescendo of hostility rose, and then between periods this fellow conned the ushers and came up to me. I wasn't sure about him so when he offered his hand, I grabbed it firmly, which surprised him, and when he swung at me it didn't even knock off my hat, although it did shake it a little. And then I pushed him away with my foot. I had the advantage of a better angle.
"It's funny but until I made that decision I was never really acknowledged as the head of the NHL. Still, I've never aspired to be Landis or anything of that sort. I've taken the attitude that I was an executive director of the enterprise.
"There've been so many fortuitous developments in my career, and the fact that I never had any children—well, they would have delimited so many of the other satisfying experiences I have had. Before there was so damn much work here, I was president of my club, head of a hospital. I was pretty good at curling. And I had an eight handicap in golf for five years. Now I do see the Expos fairly regularly, and I still get to read some. I like historical books. I only watch TV once in a while; I haven't seen a movie in five or six years. And I've had all these operations. The hole in my stomach was cured right away when we found out what was responsible—aspirin. I would get tired and use aspirin as a juice pill, and it burned the hole. Two years ago I had a gallbladder and a bladder operation, and, as residual of that, bronchitis. I'm 175 now, but I've been as high as 210. I have to keep a protein diet, but I'm not fussy. I never leave anything on my plate. For drinking, I'm a vodka man.
"For sleeping, I'm always in the raw. I used to have to own some pajamas because we traveled by train in the league then and you had to have something to wear on the trains, but since we stopped going on trains, hell, I don't even know if I have any pajamas left."
The National Football League occupies two floors at a Park Avenue address. Commissioner Alvin (Pete) Rozelle's NFL Properties is on the 12th floor, while on the 13th—so numbered—Rozelle shares space with his NFL Films. The reception area is stark and forbidding, with nothing remotely suggesting sports. It looks more like a high-interest loan office. The receptionist is sequestered behind a three-foot wall, which is topped by another three or four feet of glass (presumably bulletproof), and her major duty is to electronically unlock the doors to the NFL and NFL Films for approved visitors.