Profiles in Douchebaggery: Judge Edward Houston

whatmighthavebeen.jpg

In 1990, maverick St. Louis Blues owner Michael F. Shanahan and his swashbuckling team president, Jack Quinn, did the unthinkable: they signed restricted free agent Scott Stevens away from the Washington Capitals. Sure, the collective bargaining agreement in place at the time technically permitted signing other teams’ RFAs, but it was understood, sort of a gentlemen’s agreement, that no one would actually do so (at least for star players). The Blues’ heretical move would, in short order, change the course of two franchises for more than a decade–with a great big assist from this week’s PiD subject, Judge Edward Houston. Follow me after the jump for an extremely exclusive interview with the man entirely responsible for Scott Stevens entering the Hall of Fame later this year wearing the wrong sweater, not to mention those three Stanley Cup rings.

The Blues initially paid a steep price for their sin, sending five first-round draft picks to Washington as compensation for signing Stevens. But the real blood price was yet to be paid, and the bill collector would be Judge Houston.

One year after Stevens, the Blues signed RFA Brendan Shanahan away from New Jersey. Out of draft picks for the forseeable future, the Blues offered Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind’amour (plus two draft picks in 2045) as compensation. The Devils declined. They had an ace in the hole–Edward Houston, an Ottawa judge who also served as the NHL’s permanent arbitrator. He would decide whether the Devils would receive the Joseph-Brind’amour package, or what the Devils were really after: Scott Stevens.

Let’s see…the Blues had pissed in the ear of two different franchises. Was there any question how Houston would rule?

I knew I would need to talk to Houston, shake him by his virtual lapels, and force him to admit that the fix was in. The league had ordered a hit on the Blues and Shanahan (who was sort of the Mark Cuban of his day, except he made his money the old-fashioned way, through Pentagon contracts). A lot of Google-fu later, I made a mildly disappointing discovery.

Houston died in 2003.

Fortunately, back in my days as a “real” journalist in Washington, I had done some background reporting on legislation sponsored by former Sen. Jesse Helms (Racist-N.C.). In the course of that investigation, a super-secret source had slipped me the number of a phone booth in Hell.

I had never thought I’d use it again, but I knew it was my only shot at talking to Houston. For one thing, I don’t have any Heavenly phone numbers. (Truth be told, they have all my numbers blocked.) For another–where else would a guy in cahoots with the Devils end up? I could only pray that Hades had not followed Finland’s example and gone totally wireless, and that the booth was still standing.

Ringing–

Click.

LeNoceur: “Hello?”
Voice: “GET ME OUT OF HERE, I’M BEGGING YOU. IT BUUURRNNNS!”
LeNoceur: “Judge Houston? Judge Edward Houston, formerly of Ottawa?”
Voice: “Huh?”
LeNoceur: “Are you by chance Judge Edward Houston?”
Voice: “No, man. Sorry.”
LeNoceur: “Damn. No pun intended. You don’t have a phone book there, do you?”
Voice: “Yeah, sure, hang on a sec. Houston, you said?”

Bingo. The long shot had paid off.

Ringing–

Voice: “HELP ME! IT BUURRNNSS!”
LeNoceur: “Judge Houston?”
JEH: “Yeah, who’s this? If this is that fortune-teller again, trying to help my grandson find out where I buried the money, you can go fuck yourself.”
LeNoceur: “No, no. Actually, I write for a blog. On hockey.”
JEH: “Scott Stevens.”

Bam. Just like that. No bullshit from this guy. He may be dead, but he’s sharp as a shiv.

JEH: “Wait a minute. Which blog did you say you wrote for?”
LeNoceur: “I didn’t, but it’s called Melt Your Face-Off. We’re sort of new.”
JEH: “Hang on a second….You’re not that crazy Raskolnikov bastard, are you?”
LeNoceur: “No, I’m LeNoceur.”
JEH: “The punk-ass pussy bitch?”
LeNoceur: “You’ve heard of us…how?”
JEH: “What, you think we don’t have the Interwebs down here? Now that would be Hell.”

He’s a master. I am so nonplussed that I almost forget why I am currently racking up some ungodly long distance charges. I shake off my stupor.

LeNoceur: “Scott Stevens.”
JEH: “What about him?”
LeNoceur: “Well, what I really want to know…was the fix in? Did Gary Bettman tell you to give the Blues the royal shaft? I mean, you really screwed us. Shanahan was a terrific player and all, but without that presence on the blueline, we could never get past the Red Wings in the playoffs.”
JEH: “Bettman? He didn’t become commissioner until 1993. Nice research! Besides, wasn’t it poor goaltending that usually killed the Blues in the playoffs? Back when they used to go to the playoffs, I mean.”

This time, I am ready, and dodge both his low blows. I mean, if he’s seen the site he should know that I am immune to criticism of my (lack of) research. And anyway, the Blues are going back to the playoffs.

LeNoceur: “Just answer the question. Were you under orders to stick it to the Blues?”
JEH: “You didn’t call all this way to ask a question you already know the answer to, did you?”

No, I guess I didn’t after all. And hearing it from this douchebag’s lips isn’t going to change things, or make Blues fans feel any better when they see Stevens and Al MacInnis inducted into the Hall of Fame together, knowing that they could have played on the same team. And after Shanahan was traded for Chris Pronger…it would have made the 1980s Oilers and Islanders “dynasties” feel like a long weekend, even with Roman Turek and Brent Johnson between the pipes.

LeNoceur: “There is one more thing. What’s Hell like? Is it really as bad as they say? I’m just, um, curious.”
JEH: “Eh, it’s not so bad. But then again, I’m from Ottawa.”
LeNoceur: “I’m American. References to Ottawa don’t really help.”
JEH: “Right. Picture Kansas City, but with less nightlife and more bureaucrats.”

Maybe it’s time to get some religion after all.

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3 Comments

  1. Hey LeNoceur, tell Judge Edward Houston I said “thanks”

  2. PS – awesome photoshop job!

  3. Many thanks for David Poile for NOT matching that offer…after all, those five draft picks turned into Brendan Witt, Pat Peake and two bags of pucks.

    Also, lay off of Jesse Helms. He may have been a racist, but all his congressional staffers were hot, long-legged blonds….


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