The Lite Side Mar/Apr 2021

Ya Gotta Blow The Whistle!

By Lyle R. Hill

I was running late. It was my own fault because I had left later than planned and had run into heavier than expected traffic. I didn’t want to arrive late to the event or miss even a minute of the action. There are two seasons in Chicago … winter and road construction. The harsh winters not only keep road construction crews at home, but also tend to cause more damage during those winters than can be repaired during the rest of the year. It seems like a battle that can never be won.

Starting the Journey

I was driving north on Route 83 where it passes through Elmhurst, Ill., and where a usually fast-flowing four lane highway had been reduced to two lanes … one northbound and the other south-bound with road repair crews and equipment clogging up everything. What should have been at most a 20-minute drive was already past the 30-minute mark and I was less than half the way there. I was as upset with myself as much as I was the traffic.

After what seemed like a 10-hour trek, I arrived at the designated lo-cation, parked the car and sprinted to the front entrance … okay, maybe not an actual sprint but I did jog. And to my complete and pleasant surprise, I was right on time … a few minutes early even.

I had written the starting time down wrong so, for once, my stupidity had paid off.I didn’t want to be seen, at least not yet, so I slinked my way around and found an inconspicuous place to sit. I was sure that no one recognized me and the only people I actually recognized were my son Patrick and his adorable wife Renee. To this day, some 20 years after it happened, I am still not sure how my son talked her into marrying him.

The big Zamboni that scrapes and recoats the surface of an ice rink finished its work and then the two teams that would soon be tearing up that perfect surface came out for their pregame warm-up period. I got my camera ready. Took a couple of practice shots and waited.

Then, without fanfare or any formal announcement, the referees skated out on to the ice. The air horn blasted and the teams sent their starting line-ups out to begin the game. The referee dropped the puck at the center ice face-off circle and the action began.

Get in the Game

It wasn’t long before I started snapping pictures … not of the game exactly, but of one of the referees. It was my grandson Ryan’s first-ever game as a referee. I’m sure he was nervous, although he certainly didn’t show it. He’s been skating and playing hockey almost as long as he’s been able to walk. He’s a solid player and now, he’s joined the ranks of the hockey referees. He took the classes, learned the rules and methods to be followed and, after showing that he could handle it, had now received the opportunity to showcase his skills. I was proud of him.

He may have been a bit tentative about making calls at the beginning of the game but it didn’t take long for him to get into it and the first time he used the whistle was for an “offside” call about four minutes into the first period. There was some grumbling from a few fans, but if he heard it, he ignored it. I was quite proud of him at that moment.

Make the Call

In business, managers often have to perform as referees. They have to learn, interpret and enforce the rules of the organization. Not all of the decisions they make will be popular and at times they’ll hear the grumbling. But not making the call … not blowing the whistle … only leads to more incorrect behavior. Not whistling the transgression encourages the offender to repeat the offense. Too many managers look the other way when they should be blowing the whistle … loudly. New or younger employees in particular need to know when they have broken a rule or failed to follow procedure. Also of great importance, the rules should be applied and enforced equally, no matter who the offender might be. There is no place for favoritism in sport or business.

It was a good game between two teams that played their hearts out. At the end, the coaches came over to Ryan, and as they shook his hand, he was complimented for calling a clean, fair game.

I took a few more pictures, spoke for a minute or two with Pat and Renee and finally tracked my 16 year old grandson down to now let him know I had been there from the beginning and had gotten some good pictures. After I complimented him on his performance, I asked him what he was going to like most about his new part-time refereeing job.

“Well, Grandpa,” he said, “my favorite part is going to be that they pay me $25 a game and I’ve got another one in about 15 minutes.” And at that moment … I was VERY proud of him!

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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