Re­mem­ber the of­fi­cials out there

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass news­pa­per in Car­bon­ear. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.

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