Inside the Sin Bin
I pulled penalty box duty at one of the Boy’s games on the weekend as hockey parents are generally required to do a couple of times a year. I was lucky to only be tasked with filling in the game sheet and not running the clock. The clock is an odd and unpredictable bit of technology that is a little tough to pick up when you only run it once or twice every twelve months. Each arena inexplicably has a slightly different clock configuration with a lengthy list of instructions for what should be the most basic of functions. For example, if you need to add a goal for either the home or visiting team you press Set, then you press “home goal” or “visitor goal”, then you press Yes, then you press plus one. Should this not simply be a one-button process? Running a clock at a minor hockey game should not require a University degree.
The game sheet, by comparison, is generally a much simpler job as you just need to record any goals, assists or penalties. The penalty codes are defined on the back of the game sheet; they too are fairly self explanatory (Hooking – HKG, Tripping – TR, etc.) The challenge in this job comes when you are managing the game sheet for boys ‘ games at the Bantam level or higher, where the number of penalties are directly proportional to the amount of testosterone and adrenaline multiplied by the number of boys on the ice and then further multiplied by the mood of the ref for that particular game. Prior to the game on the weekend, the head referee asked me if I was familiar with all of the hand signals for penalties. In retrospect, this should have been my first clue as to the way the game would be called. The game started pretty quietly with a goal for the home team…a penalty or two for the visitors. Then the flood gates opened. Before I knew it the entrance to the penalty box started to resemble the revolving door at the Hilton. Tripping, hooking, high-sticking, slashing, roughing and even an out of the ordinary kneeing. The hand signals were flying fast and furious. My right hand started to cramp up from the excessive writing. I began to worry about running out of ink in my pen. Sixteen penalties would be called up until the 0:19 point in the third period, when there was one final flourish.
With the score 4-2 for the home side, the visitors decided to let out their frustrations by roughing up a player in the corner to the right of their net. The roughed up player scrambled to his feet, flinging his arms in self-defence. In turn, one of his teammates came rumbling in to defend him; knocking an opposing player to the ice and promptly smothering him in a bear hug worthy of a WWE event. Yet another two players witnessing these antics decided to put in their two cents during the melee. The referee took out his little notepad and began tallying the damage in terms of the penalties to be allotted. The net result was three fighting majors and two misconducts totalling 35 minutes in penalties. Cue more ink from my depleted writing utensil. Ultimately the fighting majors would also carry nine games in suspensions. Now one could argue that all of this could have been avoided by more conscientious and fleet of foot linesmen. It was also surmised that perhaps the referee was put in a suspending mood by some catcalls from the stands. Regardless, the game sheet was in danger of needing an addendum. I, on the other hand (no pun intended), was in need of a deep finger massage.
One other small highlight from the game in question was the arrival of the Boy in the penalty box to serve one of the several Interference penalties that were called. Upon his departure, the Boy said to me “Watch the hit I deliver when I get back on the ice! If the ref wants interference, he’ll get it all right.” True to his word, the Boy leapt back on to the rink and proceeded to skate around the opposing teams net to lay a very solid check on a visiting player, leaving him in a heap. I beamed to my penalty box companion running the clock, “He said he was gonna do that.”
Fast forward about 18 hours to the Devil’s game; another opportunity for me to take a place in the penalty box. This time I decided to put my intellect to the test by taking on the game clock. In stark contrast to the night before, this Bantam BB mostly non-contact girls hockey game saw my penalty box mate only have to deal with a meagre five penalties in a 2-0 victory for the home team. I, on the other hand, deftly managed to screw up the clock, when what I assumed was a two minute penalty turned into a four minute penalty. There was no way I could figure out how to delete and re-enter a penalty, much less correct it – detailed, step-by-step instructions or not. We would just have to relay the time of the end of the penalty to the coaches via the officials. Otherwise, this was a relatively quiet game from a score-keeping perspective. I did get a first hand report that the Devil tallied an assist on one of her team’s two goals.
All in all, I much prefer hurling catcalls, I mean constructive criticism, with the other parents from the stands; making sure, of course, that I properly gauge the mood of the ref and limit the hurling to a justifiable/semi-tolerable amount. I don’t want some other poor schmuck on the game sheet to blame me for his/her carpal tunnel syndrome.