A waiter in the back room of Bookbinder's in Philadelphia snapped to Andy Van Hellemond's signal and rushed back to his table.
"Yes, sir?" the waiter asked crisply.
"Ah, er, you forgot my applesauce," Van Hellemond mumbled.
"Yes, my applesauce."
"Applesauce with...crab meat?"
The waiter gave Van Hellemond a quizzical look, scratched his head and stumbled off to the kitchen.
Van Hellemond fought to maintain his serious pose. "You're not going to write that I love applesauce, are you? If the players ever find out that I love applesauce, well, I'll never hear the end of it." Right, Andy. So, for the information of Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito and the other 360 referee baiters who play in the National Hockey League, Andy Van Hellemond is an applesauce freak. He pours globs of the stuff on his eggs, his steaks, his fish, his toast, his vegetables—even on his ties.
Andy Applesauce, the other referees have dubbed Van Hellemond. By any name, though, he is the only summa cum laude graduate of a crash training program that the NHL instituted in 1967 when the league discovered it did not have enough competent officials to satisfy the demands of expansion. The 26-year-old Van Hellemond is the youngest referee working regularly in major league hockey, but in his three NHL seasons he has displayed a degree of decisiveness, common sense and poise that some of the league's senior referees have failed to acquire. "The kid doesn't rattle because he knows what he's doing," says one NHL general manager who usually prefaces any mention of referees with a choice epithet. "Besides that, he's not one of those stuck-up pretty boys who think the crowd paid its money to watch them instead of the players."
What Van Hellemond really has become is a young Lloyd Gilmour. The 42-year-old Gilmour is the NHL's best official because he is virtually an invisible man on the ice, letting the players make the game and intruding only as a last resort. Try to hoodwink Gilmour by faking a trip, and he will respond by making a diving gesture with his right hand. Van Hellemond might lack Gilmour's cool disdain, but he knows how to deal with the gripers. "One night Van Hellemond shut up one of my players by telling him, 'Listen, pal, if it weren't for expansion, you'd probably be playing in Saginaw,' " said an NHL coach. "You know, he was right, too."