Andrew Brunette - Star of the Minnesota Wild States
That Whether You Are A Player Or A Referee,
You Have To Love The Game To Be Good



During the 2000-2001 season, Andrew Brunette, a star player and leading scorer with the N.H.L.ís Minnesota Wild, was the recipient of a vicious elbow to the head delivered by tough guy Brendon Witt of the Washington Capitals.

"It was a close game with about three minutes left. We were on a power play and down by a goal or two. The play was getting a bit chippy and earlier one of our enforcers had hit one of their top guns. The rule of hockey dictates that if one of your top players is hit, then retaliation is likely to come," recalled Andrew of the incident. "In situations like that, you always check to see who is on the ice. If there is someone who is known for his goon tactics, you make sure you know where he is at all times. I knew Witt was on the ice, but let down my guard for a split second. The next thing I know - I get blindsided."

The elbow to the head resulted in a concussion which sidelined Andrew for five games. It may also have cost the club a playoff berth.

"There were four guys out there," explained Andrew, "and not one of them saw the hit."

Indeed, there was no penalty on the play and when it was reviewed, they couldnít get a clean enough angle of the shot on the game video tape to warrant a suspension.

"Itís times like that when you may get a bit upset with the referees for missing an obvious infraction, but that is hockey and for the most part, the referees do an excellent job on the ice."

Brunette has mixed feelings about the two-man referee system now employed by the N.H.L. "It has certainly removed a lot of the cheap shots behind the play," indicated Andrew. "But Iím not too sure if we have the consistency we once had."

He went on to explain, "With the old-fashioned one-man system, you always knew what kind of game to expect from the referee. When you saw who the referee was for your game, you sometimes had to adjust your style of play. Some referees call the game really close, others let a lot go. If you didnít adjust, you suffered the consequences. Now, you get two different personalities on the ice at a time. One may call it close at one end of the rink and the other may let more go. What you get away with at one end of the rink may be called a penalty at the other. Itís hard to know what is acceptable anymore."

The biggest thing all players look for in a referee is consistency and a professional approach to the game.

"The best way for a referee to earn respect from the players is to show respect for the players and demonstrate in real, observable ways that you care about being there as much as the players," Andrew observed. "We have to see that you love the game and have a professional approach to your responsibilities. Sometimes players may forget it or take it for granted, but letís face it - without the referees, there would be no game. A referee, therefore, is the most important person on the ice."

Indeed, when referees and linesmen approach each and every game as if they are key elements of the contest and can show that they have a sincere interest in helping the players get the most out of the game, they do earn the respect they need to excel at their job.

"The referees I respect the most are the ones who are not afraid to admit when they have made a mistake," commented Brunette. "We all make mistakes. But if you are willing to admit it and apologize, it shows that you have a lot of self-confidence and are not trying to cover up. Players like that quality in an official."

Good Advice

"I would always encourage young players to continue to participate in hockey, even if they find out they are not going to make it to a professional level. This is a great sport and can be a lot of fun at the recreational level. But if you want to advance to higher levels, there is absolutely nothing wrong with devoting your full-time commitment to refereeing," Andrew advised.

"You must always do it because you love the game. I know getting yelled at by fans and coaches isnít enjoyable, but if your goal is to referee at the Junior A level or beyond, go for it. Make this your objective and do whatever is necessary to make your dream come true. If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it becomes a little easier to accept the criticism which has become part of our game today. Unfortunately, that wonít go away, but it shouldnít keep you from your desire to achieve your goals if you keep focused."

Andrew, at the age of 29, is living his dream, and those who have followed his career will tell you that it couldnít have been an easy road. Yet, his love of the game has, and will continue to drive him forward and no doubt he will achieve many milestones along the way. Even as he enjoyed the final weeks of summer at his waterside residence in Valley East, Ontario, Andrewís thoughts were never too far from the upcoming season where he would once again put his trust into the hands of the on-ice officials of the N.H.L..



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