You may not have a high opinion of NHL officials, but there’s no denying they are the most athletic officials sports. They also have the most dangerous job. Chris Rooney found this out the hard way on Monday.
In the opening minutes of the Dallas Stars-Colorado Avalanche game, Rooney took a defected slapshot in the neck. He immediately hit the ice behind the Colorado net. He stayed down for several minutes while being attended to by the Avs’ training staff. Players, coaches and fans showed great concern for the ref, especially when a stretcher was wheeled onto the ice. But proving he’s every bit as tough as a player, Rooney refused the stretcher and left the ice under his own power. The crowd in Denver gave him a standing ovation as he made his way into the trainer’s room. According to the NHL, tests came back negative and Rooney is expected to miss minimal time.
That same night during the Carolina-Toronto game, referee Marc Joannette was struck in the face by a puck. He was forced to leave the contest for stitches. Luckily he was not seriously injured, either.
NHL on-ice officials put themselves in harm’s way each time they step on the ice. They are subjected to pucks flying toward them at great speed, errant high sticks, players running them over at high speed, breaking up fights. Yet they still manage to be top-notch professionals. Unlike in baseball, you rarely see a referee or linesman losing it on a coach. It’s almost always the other way around.
Former linesman Pat Dapuzzo suffered perhaps the most catastrophic injury ever by a linesman when he was accidentally hit in the face by a skate in 2008. The accident ended his career, and Dapuzzo was forced to undergo numerous surgeries. He has since opened up about the incident, recalling how it sent him into a downward spiral of depression.
Former referee Don Van Massenhoven also suffered a terrifying injury. He was struck right between the eyes by a deflected puck during a 2005 game. Van Massenhoven, a former police officer, underwent eight hours of surgery where seven plates and 35 screws were put into his face to repair his broken orbital bones. Ever the tough guy, Van Massenhoven was on the ice again in nine weeks.
Current linesman Steve Miller broke his orbital bone and the top of his nose when he was hit by a puck in 2002. He missed a grand total of two weeks.
Officials have a difficult and challenging job. It takes its toll on them, both mentally and physically, which is why the standing ovation given to Rooney was justly deserved.