Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Off-ice officials vital to Port Huron

All hockey fans understand the importance of referees and linesmen to any game, even those who boo them from the moment they step on the ice to the game’s final buzzer.

What most don’t understand, though, is that there is another group of officials with a task that is just as important to the integrity of the game, the off-ice officials.

The Port Huron Fighting Falcons’ off-ice officials are responsible for tracking stats for each player on the ice, including goals, assists, plus/minus, shots and penalty minutes. Some off-ice officials work just a few feet from the ice as goal judges and penalty box attendants, while others sit high above the action tracking statistics.

A goal scored does not become official until the referee gives the goal signal, and the goal judge lights the red lamp. One of those goal judges, Brad Amey, has volunteered as an off-ice official for nearly 30 years, since the early 1980s when the Port Huron Flags called McMorran Arena home.

The referee then sends his or her opinion of who scored the goal in to a pair of off-ice officials who run the scoreboard and communicate with the rest of the crew upstairs. Betty Vargo and Jim Wedge have been that pair of off-ice officials since long before the North American Hockey League had a team in the Blue Water Area.

Upstairs, stat keepers like Mike Reily take note of first and second assists, and the official scorer gives the information to PA announcer Jim McGuigan to read to the crowd. Scorer John Baunoch has been an off-ice official since the Port Huron Border Cats competed in the United Hockey League.

Vic Frandsen, who also started volunteering as an off-ice official with the Border Cats, then enters the data into a special software program that updates all stats to the internet so that fans at home can follow the game in real-time.

During intermission each goal undergoes a video review to ensure that the correct players are credited for goals and assists each period.

The Fighting Falcons have a new supervisor of off-ice officials this season, as Gary Temple takes over for Dan McVety, who has also worked with Port Huron hockey teams dating back to the Border Cats.

“I’ve been working with the crew about six years,” said Temple, whose family hosts Fighting Falcons forward Logan Lemirande for the second year. “I started out as a substitute, got a position as a full-timer and became the new supervisor when Dan stepped down to be able to follow his son’s hockey team.

“It’s a great group of guys, and we have a good time working together.”

Andy Bennet, Jim Eagle, Derek Steele, Al O’Dell and Jim Wilson are all off-ice officials that have worked over 20 games per year for the last several seasons of Port Huron hockey. Rodney Jarvis joined the crew full-time this season.

These off-ice officials, as well as their substitutes, have brought the same professional approach to the Fighting Falcons as they offered when they worked for professional teams in the past. Though the Fighting Falcons compete at a different level than past professional teams, the crew approaches their work as they always have. They know that accurate statistics are of utmost importance to junior-level players and college scouts.

Many scouts rely on statistics to decide what players to put on their radar, and what teams to see in person.

When the Fighting Falcons traveled to Jametown, N.Y., for a weekend series with the Ironmen earlier this month, no data about shots on net was provided. Based on statistics that only counted goals against, Port Huron goalie Max Milosek’s save percentage dropped 26 points. Before the problem was fixed, scouts viewing Milosek’s stats may not have looked at his game-by-game numbers to see that there was a problem and moved on to another player.

“What I’m really looking forward to with this league and team is seeing these players develop and move on to college,” said Temple. “It’s very rewarding to know that as a group we can provide accurate information to the scouts and help make that happen.”

Most off-ice officials have full-time jobs during the day, and volunteer their time during game nights to help the games run smoothly. As work schedules change, substitute officials are often needed to help fill all necessary positions.

Temple and the Fighting Falcons are looking for hockey enthusiasts to volunteer for substitute off-ice official positions. Substitutes would be asked to work a handful of games throughout the season as needed, and are given a pair of tickets to each game they work for their friends or families.

If you are interested in volunteering to become an off-ice official, call the Fighting Falcons at (810) 966-3800, or send an email to Mike Reed in the office at

No comments: