Remember the officials out there
There’s one opinion all hockey officials have in common - they don’t like getting hit with the puck when there’s no need for it.
With hockey season preparing to ramp up, it’s an important piece of information for coaches and players to remember.
Especially after the incident in Czechoslovakia when 24-year-old official Pavel Lainka was killed after being hit with a puck during a game last week.
Details are scarce, but Lainka was struck in the head by an errant puck during a youth league game on Sept. 10. Reports say It somehow got under his visor and struck him in the temple.
Full disclosure, I’m an official with the Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association.
Now, Lainka’s fatal accident is a freak one. The instances where a hockey official has died after being hit with a puck are few and far between.
Still, there’s a lesson to learn here. Or at least, a topic that should be broached a bit more in a public forum.
There are plenty of times - believe me, I’ve lived it - where a player will wheel around and rifle a puck off the boards or glass in an attempt to get it out of their zone. They have no idea where they are or who is in the way.
These players are just doing what they’re told. Coincidentally, there’s plenty of carnage that can be done there.
A puck can careen off a stanchion and take someone in the face, neck or elsewhere. I’ve taken a couple of pucks to the back of the head because of it and even more off the shins, hips and back to know how much it sucks to get hit.
While we’re on the subject, let’s dispel a widely popular theory that’s out there. That we get in the way of clearing attempts and such on purpose.
The way we get screamed at when a puck hits us it’s like we tried to get blasted by a chunk of rubber.
As linesmen and referees, we don’t intentionally get in the way of clearing attempts, passes up the boards and other plays. It isn’t our plan to interfere with the action at all.
In fact, we’d prefer to just go about our business so the games keep moving along smoothly and as quickly as possible.
The less you notice us, the better.
Sorry for that outburst. Back to the topic at hand. Which is of course official safety.
Now, official safety doesn’t fall directly on the shoulders of players. The guys and girls with the black-and-white jerseys on are just as much responsible for their safety as anyone else.
They have to be wary of putting themselves in harm’s way, whether its pushing up in front of the puck or having the wherewithal to see the play unfolding and take the appropriate measures to protect ourselves.
I don’t know how the play unfolded where Lainka got hit with the puck, but I can pretty much guarantee that either he stopped paying attention for that split second or the player did.
Guys, remember take a look before you wind up and rip that puck down the boards. Chance are the other 95 per cent of the ice surface is wide open.
You keep your head up and we will too.