Referees have the most thankless job in hockey. There’s no two ways about it. You get booed, you get called every name in the book, you used to get serenaded in the days when officials had names on the backs of their jerseys. Everyone thinks they can do a better job than you.
But, really, how many people would actually do this job?
There’s a lot to watch and judge while you anticipate the quick play to dodge bodies and pucks. But Thursday night there was an example of the real dangers referees encounter.
In the Buffalo-Phoenix game, referee Trevor Hanson was struck in the face by a puck that had ricocheted off the post. He had to leave the ice for repairs with about 2 and a half minutes left in the second period.
Hanson, who refereed his first NHL game this past October, returned to the game at the start of the third period, so it could have been much, much worse.
How much worse? Recall Don van Massenhoven’s incident, when he was struck between the eyes with a puck in a New Jersey-Florida game in 2005. That shot was also deflected and the injury described as “catastrophic.” He had to undergo eight hours of surgery, with seven plates and 35 screws put in his face to repair shattered orbital bones.
“I had just been announced to work the ’06 Olympics, so I remember asking the surgeon ‘When can I go back after the surgery?’ ” van Massenhoven said. “And he’s like, ‘Well, we’ll worry about that next season.’ I said ‘Well no, no I have the Olympics’ and when I told him they were in February he said ‘Not a chance.’
“But I was actually back in nine weeks. I worked my first game Jan. 9 in Pittsburgh.”
Even hockey referees are tough son of a guns. From that day forward, van Massenhoven wore a visor.
Last night’s incident occurred nearly one year to the day after two referees were hit with a puck on the same night. On Feb. 4 of 2013, Chris Rooney and Marc Joannette each had their own puck incidents. Stay safe out there, fellas.
For more NHL referee stories, check out my “A Ref’s Life” feature series from the 2009-10 NHL season.