Linesman Dennis Mercer sometimes misses the "crazy" days.I wrote a story about good-guy Dennis Mercer, a linesman who recently officiated his 500th game in the CHL. You can find the article here.
Hats off to the Thunder for the ceremony in his honor. And kudos to the Thunder fans, who gave Mercer a loud ovation. Fans boo the officials whenever they come onto the ice, but it’s clear the Thunder faithful know and appreciate a job well done.
A CHL rep will be in town to recognize Mercer in February, when he works his last game before retiring.
I spent over an hour interviewing Mercer. I could have spent three hours listening to him discuss his duties, players and coaches he has policed, and the good old days of Thunder hockey. There were many things I thought readers might like to know, but I couldn’t fit them into the story. So read on for more tidbits from Mercer.
Mercer says the current CHL game is a lot faster than it was in the early days of Thunder hockey. But the passing is worse now and the game is “sloppier.” He misses the time period when the Thunder dominated the league with skilled and tough players. “There was no vet rule back then, and the Thunder has some experienced guys. It was kind of wild and crazy. There was always stuff going on after the whistle.” Mercer said the toughest part of his job involves the “50-yard dashes to the net” he makes during stoppages. During the dash, he is looking for any signs that a fight might break out. Interestingly, Mercer seemed to a fan of the rough stuff, as long as it happens during the course of a game and isn’t manufactured for show. I asked Mercer about the coaches he respected the most. Naturally, he mentioned Doug Shedden first. “He started it all,” Mercer said. Then he praised Derek Laxdal. “His players listened and did what he wanted.” Mercer also thinks Kevin McClelland is doing a “good job.” Mercer said he loses about 5 pounds each game. The rigors of doing a game, and the conditioning required to start a season, are the main reasons Mercer is calling it quits. Mercer remembers well the Thunder debut of Bryan Wells. “He scored a goal, got into a fight and got a match penalty for head butting, I think,” Mercer said with a smile. “It was like, welcome to the league! You knew he was going to be a handful.” Mercer said that, before a game, the three officials meet and discuss the upcoming game. They look at players with high PIMS, talk about the teams’ fighters and discuss what to watch out for. “It gives us an advantage out there and helps us do our jobs. We know what players to look for. Like the other night when Mac threw Hand and Richards out there. You knew something was gonna happen. It was like, OK, let’s get ready boys.” Mercer greatly enjoyed woking with George LaForce. The duo worked over 300 games together, Mercer estimated. Mercer said some of the fighters “glaze over” on the ice. I thought it was an interesting description. “It’s when players go into their own world and are almost oblivious to anything else going on around them.” The two Thunder players he can recall glazing over? Wells and John Hewitt.
Happy New Year, Thunder fans. There is little doubt 2011 is going to be much better than 2010.