Sunday, March 23, 2014

Whistle in the pocket (Sunday brunch: March 23, 2014)

[oops, didn’t check the am/pm in posting time--that’ll teach me to blog after a playoff doubleheader]

It’s not something in the book, but a lesson passed on to novice refs in training camp: take off your whistle and put it in your pocket when there’s a scuffle and you’re going in to separate the players.  Depending on who’s teaching that part of the seminar, you’ll be advised there are other times to put your whistle in your pocket.  A lot of guys ignore that advice; it’s a bother to always be taking off and putting on your whistle.  But I’ve made it a habit. 

Why do you put the whistle in your pocket?  Read on after the weekend’s puzzles.  

Last week, my post and Nathan’s look to have crossed in the mail.  So there are two of his puzzles to commend to you: last week’s was a Pathfinder (good one!) and this week Nathan offers his first Split Ends (a puzzle type not to be confused with the “Split Ends” puzzles Will Sortz constructs for the New York Times).

The Wall Street Journal puzzle this weekend is “Omission Statement,” a variety cryptic by Hex.  This one is on the easy side, and even includes an acrostic final answer, so it’s definitely worth a try.  By contrast, the weekly Hex puzzle in the National Post is harder than usual.  I liked the grid, which included a dozen nine- and ten-letter words. Falcon will help you though it if you need. 

The Fraser Simpson cryptic in the Globe and Mail (printable, Java) is at its usual (hard) level of difficulty.       

The NYT has a Hex acrostic this week (behind the paywall).

Good news!  Erica has survived the bedbugs and posted her assessment of the tackiness of this month’s Harpers.  

Back to hockey.  Why do you put the whistle in your pocket?  Because of the metal clamp that holds it on your fingers.  If you get hit on the whistle, it’s a good way to sprain or break your fingers (I’ve broken seven, but none of them because of the whistle).  Yesterday proved the point.

It was a playoff game, a good one, though we had a lot of icings.  When there’s an icing call, the lead official blows the whistle when the puck crosses the goal line, skates to the puck, and skates it the length of the rink back to the trail official at the face-off dot.  It’s a time when we want to show off our best skating skills, and for me it’s the time when I can remind myself to pay attention to the things I learned in the power skating lessons I had a few seasons ago. 

On one of those situations, in the second period, I had just crossed the blue line and angled across towards the opposite circle when a red team player coming the other way angled across towards his bench.  We didn’t have a head-on collision, but he ran right into my whistle hand.  We then collided hip to hip pretty hard and both of us went down.  But I was ready, and since my whistle was in my pocket, neither the hand nor the whistle was injured.

NHL linesman Tim Nowak had a similar situation in a game I was watching on TV last week.  A player ran into him during a stoppage, and he went down.  He needed several stitches to close a gash in his whistle hand, but he was back out there soon enough.  Tim’s a good linesman, a veteran now.  A native of the Buffalo area, he’s a proud product of the USA Hockey Officiating program and gives back to his fellow officials.  I had the opportunity to skate with him and hear him speak at the last district camp I attended.  The occupational hazards of being a ref are there for all of us. 

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