If you’ve happened to stumble across this column once or twice before, you’ll know two things about me.
1. I have a tendency to be very hard on officials, whether that criticism is warranted or not (I seem to remember a column from last season where I called out Steve Papp after he made some awful calls in a Red Deer-Swift Current match-up).
2. I have a great respect for those who are brave enough to pick up a whistle and get in the game, many times, enduring abuse from players, coaches, fans, and scribes like me.
As someone who is more than willing to point the finger at the referee, I feel the need to compliment the officiating crew we saw at the Enmax Centrium Friday night when the Red Deer Rebels played host to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Looking like they were trying to earn a spot in the Federal League, the Warriors came out of the gates fired up, hitting everything in sight, hoping to beat the Rebels into submission.
The Warriors, after all, had tried everything else in three previous meetings with the Rebels (all shutouts by Red Deer) so maybe they figured it was time to take a page from the early 80’s Western League, a time when fists flew with far more regularity, and fights outnumbered goals scored on a pretty consistent basis.
The thing Moose Jaw didn’t take into account is that the Rebels have one of the best power plays in the WHL, and if an opposition team is going to skate into the Centrium trying to scare Red Deer back to the dressing room, not only will the Rebels not back down from the rough stuff, but they’ll also make you pay on the scoreboard.
And that’s exactly what we saw Friday night, as the Rebels put five man advantage goals on the board in an 8-1 win over the visitors.
Normally, with a score like that, I tend to feel bad for the losing squad, but in this case, Moose Jaw did it to themselves, so I failed to shed any tears for the Warriors.
I did, however, feel bad for the officials, who did the best job they could in trying to keep things under control.
After the first period on Friday, Red Deer was up 4-0, scoring all four of those goals on seven power play opportunities, while Moose Jaw had just two chances with the extra skater.
The second period saw the two teams combine for 19 minor penalties, four 10-minute misconducts, and one fight, with Moose Jaw being handed the majority of the trips to the sin bin and Red Deer scoring once on the power play.
To add a bit more weight to the argument, the second period took almost an hour to complete, as the referees and linesmen had to break up a squirmish or gathering after almost every single whistle.
The third period wasn’t much different, and by the 4:07 mark of the final frame, the Warriors were missing their head coach from the bench.
With the Rebels about to begin short five on three power play, Moose Jaw bench boss Dave Hunchak, who was either displeased with the officiating or the fact that his team was having emotional control issues, chose to voice that displeasure by chucking a water bottle out onto the ice in the general direction on the officials.
That was enough for the referees, who gave Hunchak the game misconduct and then waited the five minutes before he finally vacated the bench and the game could begin again.
Fifty-eight seconds later, Red Deer scored again to make the score 6-0, chasing Moose Jaw starter Thomas Heemskerk with their sixth goal on 20 shots.
By the time the final buzzer went, Moose Jaw had racked up 21 minor penalties, two fighting majors, four 10-minute misconducts, and one game misconduct.
And looming at those numbers, I tip my hat to referees Ryan Thompson and Colin Watt, as well as linesmen Chad and Cody Huseby.
Those four guys have a tough job on the best of nights, and the Moose Jaw Warriors sure didn’t make it any easier on them on Friday.
Games like this can get out of hand quite quickly or result in one or more players getting hurt, and the officials did a great job in making sure that didn’t happen.