I watch a lot of hockey. It is what I do. I get to write and talk and make a nice living from a game that I first grew up watching on an old black and white television at mom and dad’s house on Maple St. in Sault Ste. Marie.
All of these years later, I am still watching hockey, though most of the time it is at a rink, rather than on a TV set.
Over the past week, for instance, I watched the Soo Greyhounds play three Ontario Hockey League games at GFL Memorial Gardens. I also took in a Great North Midget Hockey League playoff game and a Sault Ste. Marie high school hockey championship series match at John Rhodes Community Center. And just this past Saturday night, I went from a novice minor game at Soo Pee Wee Arena to a Soo Eagles v. Soo Thunderbirds, Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League contest at the Rhodes Center.
I guess you can say that I still like watching hockey.
At any rate, while politics has, does, and probably always will, play a part in hockey, there is still a lot to really like about the game.
From the actual games comes the written word and, over time, watching and writing about a young player advancing from one level to another, be it to the Great North loop, to the NOJHL, to the OHL or, in rare cases, the National Hockey League.
Mostly, I get a charge out of being at the rink (especially if it has a sports bar upstairs) and taking in the plays, the saves, the goals, the assists, the strategy of the coaches and the reaction of the fans.
What I don’t like is when the referees make the game about them.
For sure, referees are an essential part of the game. They are in place to enforce the rules and to maintain order.
It has been said that the best referees are the ones who are not noticed and who do not intentionally attract attention to themselves.
Unfortunately, there are some referees who want to make the game about them. They want to show everyone — players, coaches and fans — that they are in charge and that, if they choose, they can alter the course of a particular game.
They are also known to hold a grudge against a certain coach or player and will purposely antagonize a coach or a player with the intent of the coach or player taking the bait and being penalized.
It is those referees who should have no part in the game. It is those referees who should be put out of work by league commissioners and convenors.
The game — hockey, in this instance — should never be about the referees. The game should be about the players and the coaches and the fans and anyone who has a healthy interest in the development and outcome.
Just as there should be no place in hockey for any sort of violence, hazing, exploitation or violation of the rules for team or personal gain, we can also do without referees who make the game about them.
Some refs need to turn in their whistles. Or have their whistles taken from them.