The Jon Lindell Memorial in Arviat was one of my favourite tournaments in our region for many years before I had to hang ’em up this past season.
I had very few problems during my years officiating the tournament, and the few I did have came from off the ice, not on it.
Being accused of counting the number of white guys on each team and reffing in favour of the team with the most was one of the most hilarious accusations ever levied against me during my hockey career, and I still chuckle today thinking about it.
Hard to take something like that too seriously.
But, make no mistake about it, officials in our region have fought long and hard to earn respect from players and fans alike, and this is a horrible time to start skating backwards in the Kivalliq.
I’m old school when I take my zebra jersey off and morph back to just ordinary hockey fan.
My favourite era was the Boston vs Montreal and Philly vs Toronto series of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
So, I really have no problem with anyone saying razzing the ref is part of the game. That is unless it’s taken too far.
And, when wives and girlfriends are being hooted at for what happened on the ice, we’ve obviously gone a little too far.
And to those who post, and post some more, on social media that Rankin refs shouldn’t be on the ice for gold medal games when a Rankin team is playing, the answer to that is simple: get refs certified in your communities so Rankin refs don’t have to travel to every tournament, or so big bucks don’t have to be spent to bring guys up from Winnipeg.
It always sucks, to use the sports vernacular, when a call an official has to make directly impacts a championship game, which is what happened in the JLM final in Arviat when Arctic Connection had two goals waved off, the second of which would have tied the game in the final few seconds of play.
But to insinuate Rankin refs travel to Arviat to ref the JLM so they can cheat for Rankin Inlet is preposterous.
Those in the know realize Gleason Uppahuak and myself went right down to the wire trying to get a couple of Winnipeg refs to come up this year and lend a hand, but it just wasn’t to be.
So, do you play the tournament with Rankin refs, or postpone it until you can have guys from away come in to call the games, keeping in mind Rankin refs have worked the JLM every year now for the past decade.
And posting negative stuff all over social media and hassling people who were nowhere near Arviat when the game was played: does it stand to reason that will make attracting officials to next year’s tournament that much easier or harder?
The Kivalliq game has evolved quite a bit during the past decade, and is now a fast, hard-nosed, but clean brand of hockey that any true fan of the game would have to appreciate.
And, at the risk of irking the hockey gawds, it’s been awhile now since an abuse-of-official penalty has been handed out during a Kivalliq tournament, which speaks volumes as to the mutual levels of respect that have been built up between the players and refs in our region.
In my humble opinion, we’ve come too far to start letting it all unravel now.
I can’t guess how many games of hockey I’ve called during my officiating years, but I still maintain that if I ever reffed with an infamous “homer” official, he or she was darn good at it because I never noticed.
Kivalliq hockey has a reputation for being some of the cleanest, best-played puck in recreational hockey you can find anywhere, and we have the added bonus of great fans who pack our arenas and take our tournaments, from atoms to juniors, to a whole new level.
Let’s all do our part to keep it that way. After all, it’s all about the game, right?