As a goaltender, Mack Schell has one of the best vantage points from which to watch a hockey game.
Even when he’s not between the pipes, though, Schell still has a unique perspective on the game.
He has just begun his fifth year as an official with the Stettler Minor Hockey Association.
Schell, 17, has been recognized as the winner of the Steven Wright Memorial Award for his time and dedication to Stettler minor hockey officiating during the 2010-11 season.
“I didn’t even know there was this award,” Schell said after formally receiving his plaque during a Western Hockey League pre-season game in Stettler last month. “I just went out and did my job, and I guess it was good enough to get the award.”
Schell, a Grade 12 student at William E. Hay Composite High School, tends goal with the midget AA Stettler Legion Blues. He was a first year bantam when he began officiating.
“I decided to try to get some income going, and then I just kind of got hooked on it,” said Schell, who lives in Big Valley.
“I’d like to keep my hockey career going, so reffing is a really good way of keeping my hockey going. I’d definitely like to continue reffing, because it’s becoming a good passion of mine.”
Schell likes to be close to the action.
“I guess I like bossing people around,” he said with a smile. “Yelling at the older guys, even though I know I’m not supposed to outside the rink.”
“Just kind of tell them to be quiet, and telling them the rules. It’s kind of fun telling them, and then they realize that you’re right. You get a sense of accomplishment in yourself.”
Schell was among 30 officials who attended a refereeing clinic this past weekend at the Stettler Recreation Centre. He was also the referee Saturday night for a bantam A preseason game between Stettler and Camrose.
In the first period, when Schell warned both teams that further scrums after the whistle would result in penalties, one of the Camrose coaches told his players to obey the referee, because “he has a quick whistle.”
Schell has heard such remarks on the ice and from the benches and the stands, but he tries to ignore most of the commentary.
“You definitely get a couple of beaks here and there, but you just have to shake it off and keep going,” he said. “I kind of hear it all, but there’s probably lots that I haven’t heard, because I just ignore them. It’s not a big deal.”
“Actually, the worst stuff I hear is just from the coaches, telling me how to do the job and stuff like that. That’s more aggravating than a kid my age telling me that I’m blind.”
“Coaches should be showing their team the way to play the game, but when they’re telling me how to do my job, I don’t like that. That’s kind of over the limit.”
Schell has called games at the midget A level, so he’s run into his contemporaries from hockey and school.
“It is really intimidating, being around guys that are older or as old as me, but then you get out there and you just kind of forget about it and you just do your job,” said Schell, about five-foot-eight and 145 pounds.
“With players, I’ll put up with more. I’ll give them more warnings. Coaches, they’re at an older age now that I can give them one warning, and that’s it. They’re older, so they should know better anyway.”
Referees always seem to be a target, even for the strangest reasons.
“I’m a goalie in hockey, so people do laugh at me a lot by the way I skate in reffing, because it’s more of a goalie’s skate than a player’s skate,” he said. “But, whatever.”
Schell might be skating his way toward a career in officiating.
“That would be really cool, if I could get to a high-enough level and I could just make a living of it, too,” he said.
Stettler Minor Hockey executive Fran Sharpe, who books ice times and assigns referees for the association, said Schell showed authority, sportsmanship and respect as an official.
“He handled it very well,” Sharpe said of Schell’s improvement during the past season.