I’ve always been a proponent of learning new things and doing new things because sometimes, we just get stuck. We just get in a rut and do the same stuff day after day. Weeks go by, months go by, and even years pass – and we are right back where we were the year before except we’re one year older. Rarely do we challenge ourselves by trying to actually learn something new or do something we have never done before. This past year I was stuck and I needed to learn something new and do something new. The question was, what would I do?
As I contemplated what I could learn and do that would be new in my life, my thoughts went to the game of hockey. Growing up in Buffalo, NY, I learned to play hockey as a little boy. Later in life and going through a divorce at the time, I picked up the game once again and have continued to play ever since. I have many fond memories of backyard skates as a kid and adult tournaments I have played in. All that said, I felt it might be time for me to give something back to the game. How could I do something involved with the game of hockey to ‘Pay It Forward’ so to speak? And then the light went on – I decided I would start officiating ice hockey.
My wife shared her sentiments on my decision in one short sentence – “What, are you NUTS?” As a former hockey mom for 18 years, she has no love in her heart or fond memories of hockey officials. She best remembers them for missing the penalties that should have been called and making the lousy calls that should not have been called! She assured me she would never come watch me ref a game if indeed I did go through with my plan. My response? “That’s 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 5-minute major for lack of spousal support!” She was not impressed.
I registered with USA Hockey (www.usahockey.com) and attended one of their skating and training clinics back in the fall. I then passed my written exam and began going to a variety of online sources to buy all my gear. Believe me, Canadian sizing charts make no sense. I’ve paid as much in returned shipping fees as I did on my gear! I began watching instructional videos online and re-reading the Official USA Hockey Rules and Case Book, all 370 pages of it. When my time came, I wanted to be prepared. And finally, last Saturday, I took the ice wearing the stripes for the first time in my life as a hockey official.
I had a great partner, a veteran who has officiated for 7 years. We talked before our first game (we did two) and knowing we would be using the 2-man system, I shared with him my concerns about proper positioning on the ice, rules interpretations I wasn’t totally sure of, etc. He assured me we’d be just fine. As we skated onto the ice at 7:55 AM he said, “Let’s have a great game, Buddy.” I knew immediately that he and I were a team. Two teams would be playing each other on the ice that morning but my partner and I would be the team charged with the responsibility of managing the game.
Skating to be in proper position all the time, watching where your partner is, calling Icings and Off-Sides, talking to the players to keep the play moving, calling penalties as needed, staying out of the players’ way, identifying scoring combinations (goal scorer and players assisting on the goal) and reporting them to the official scorer – it’s pretty fast and it requires a lot of attention and focus. It also requires a confident, commanding presence to make sure you keep things under control.
It’s also fun. You’re skating and honestly, I love to skate. You get a great workout officiating ice hockey. You even get to help some of the younger players learn the game as you teach them and explain certain rules to them often while escorting them to the penalty box. You have the chance to teach. I like that. It became very clear to me last Saturday that this is a way for me to give something back to the game.
When I skated off the ice after the second game with my partner, I felt this wonderful sense of exhilaration. It was almost like an endorphin-produced runners’ high. I’d had a great workout and yes, I had officiated a couple of hockey games, but that wasn’t the reason for the wonderful feelings I had. No, I felt great because I had challenged myself to do something I had never done before and now, I had done it. I had learned something new and had done something new.
Looking for some excitement in your life? Want that special feeling of exhilaration and satisfaction? Then challenge yourself and go learn something new and do something new.
Don’t Waste Your Flavor – LIVE Deliciously!