© Photo courtesy of Rod Bennett/Action Sports Shots
David McCarthy gets set to drop the puck in this undated photo. — Star file photo
David McCarthy knows he was an agitator who wasn’t very popular when he played hockey. But he believes that gave him a better understanding of what it takes to be a good hockey official.
It appears McCarthy is earning more respect as an official than he did as a role player during his minor hockey days and one year of junior hockey. He began calling games six years ago and is now a Level 3 official with hopes of climbing up the ranks.
His commitment to the game as an official earned him the 2014 Wayne Mercer Memorial Scholarship for hockey officials in Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Mercer is a former referee and supervisor of officials in the province. The scholarship goes to an official showing promise and commitment to the game and must be pursuing post-secondary studies.
“I was definitely a guy you wanted to shove a stick down his throat if you got a chance,” McCarthy said.
“I just pissed everybody off. I wasn’t dirty, but nobody liked me. But, I think that helped my officiating career because instead of being the guy causing shit I’m the guy looking for shit now, if that makes sense.”
The 20-year-old student at College of the North Atlantic has a knack for spotting trouble situations on the ice, knowing he was once the guy officials were pulling out a mix of players during scrums when he played. His awareness is a lot better, so much so that officials at a higher level have complimented him on it, and he attributes that to the aggressive style he brought to the rink as a player.
He has done his share of minor hockey tilts, got his first taste of senior hockey this past winter and continues to do games at all levels of hockey. The pay as an official is really peanuts and he believes a small increase would be appreciated by all officials, but he insists the money is only a bonus to getting an opportunity do something he thoroughly enjoys.
“I just do it for the love of the game. I find it’s a chance to stay close to the game,” he said. “You can stay close to the game at a high level and it’s a chance to give back to the game by helping keep the game going.”
Being an official isn’t an easy job. Players and fans expect perfection and when something don’t go their way it’s the guys wearing the stripes who usually bear the brunt of it. McCarthy was well aware of that when he started officiating, but he only focuses on doing his best when he’s on the ice and leaves the game on the ice when the buzzer sounds.
“You got to leave it on ice. Once you leave the ice and go in the dressing room you’re done,” he said.
Veteran officials Ed Flood and Gary Callahan have proven to be great mentors to McCarthy as he came up through the ranks. He credits the two with giving him a helping hand. He tried to soak up everything they taught him about being a good official and tried to apply it.
“They’re the grandfathers. They are who everybody should look up to I think,” he said.
Flood, who serves as the referee association in Corner Brook, nominated McCarthy for the award.
“For him to move as fast as he has really proves that he’s good,” Flood said of an official who he believes will be invited to a Level 4 clinic in the near future.
Flood has been involved with officiating hockey over 40 years. He has had the pleasure of learning from and working with some pretty darn good guys over the years at a levels of hockey.
He puts McCarthy on the pedestal.
“I would put David on the ice with any young official in this province,” he said. “He’s as good as any young linesman I‘ve been around,” he said.
He has been impressed with the grasp the young man has on the officiating side of the sport.
“He’s improved so much so fast in a very short period of time,” he said. “Even his fellow officials are kind of amazed and pleased at the very same time at how good he’s gotten in a very short time.”