Who Are You...Columbo?
By: Marty Kirwan, Sudbury, Ontario

I was refereeing a game in the Northern Ontario Junior A Hockey League in Rayside Balfour during the 2001-2002 season. The visiting club was from Espanola and you could cut the tension with a knife. It was what we call a "difficult" game to referee - just about any game at that level is difficult since you could be calling penalties every time any two players come within reach of each other.

After one goal mouth play, a wild scramble ensued with players flying all over the place, wrestling on the ground and such. I am not one for calling fighting penalties too easily, but this one kind of got out of hand. At the end of it all, I finally ejected one of the Rayside players with a game misconduct because he wouldn't stop. The player he was after from Espanola, was sent to the penalty box.

While we were sorting out the penalties, the Rayside Captain came over and informed me that the player I had ejected had been injured when "bitten" by the Espanola player. Neither of my linesmen had seen this, but I know the two of them were wrestling for a while and it could have happened. The coach was really going ballistic by this time, demanding that something be done. I knew that it was a potentially explosive situation.

I saw the Rayside player motioning to me from off the ice in front of his dressing room door, showing me his arm. So, I decided to skate over and investigate. Sure enough, there was the impression of a perfect set of teeth marks on his arm. 

I then skated back to the penalty box and motioned the Espanola player to stand up and come forward. I told him to smile. He looked a bit puzzled, but complied with my request.

I then skated calmly over to the Rayside bench and called the coach to the boards and said, loud enough for his players to hear, "Coach, your player definitely has a perfect set of teeth marks on his arm. But there is no way the Espanola player bit him, because he is missing his two front teeth."

The coach was stunned, stepped back, and in order to get the final word in asked, "Who are you, Columbo? Are you saying he bit himself?"

I smiled, looked up and down the bench, shrugged my shoulders and stated, "I'm not drawing any conclusions, but he didn't complain about being bitten until after he went into the dressing room; the teeth marks were made by someone with a perfect set of teeth; and the player he is accusing is missing two teeth. You draw the conclusions."

The rest of the game proceeded smoothly and without incident. I can't remember what the score was, or who won, but I do know that it is a game I will recall often during the course of my career.



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