By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
I’m not sure I had the best seat in the house, but it was close.
No one sat closer to the ice than I did on Saturday night at L.C. Walker Arena when the Muskegon Lumberjacks took on Cedar Rapids. I know that for a fact.
I was the penalty box attendant for the Lumberjacks. That means I was within two feet of the ice with just a door and some Plexiglas between me and all the action.
There certainly are sights, sounds and smells when you get to sit in the penalty box.
But I knew what to expect. I had that same seat two seasons ago. Now, that was an interesting night. On that evening, the first visitor I had was Lumberjack Matt DeBlouw, now a Michigan State Spartan. He was a seldom penalized player, but if my memory serves me correctly, I opened the door twice to let DeBlouw sit and “stew for two.”
On his first stop, he stepped into the box and said, “Hello, Mr. Rop.” I had vowed not to say a word to any visitors unless I was spoken to first. And since DeBlouw spoke first, I replied, “Not too bad, how do you like my new job?”
For nearly every hockey game I’d seen over the last 30 years, I had the luxury of sitting in the press box as a newspaper reporter. But since that gig ended, I was free to do other things and becoming an off-ice official was a no-brainer, as far as I was concerned. Why not give back some of my time to helping out the local hockey team? And I have spent plenty of time in the press box covering games for the Local Sports Journal.
Anyway, I made a return to the penalty box and on that night, I didn’t have too many occupants. The first visitor was Matt Iacopelli and he did speak. He declared his innocence of any type of infraction on the ice. He claimed he was framed by an opponent who flopped to the ice and sold the referee a bill of goods. Two minutes for hooking was the call.
To make matters worse, he spent less than his 2 minutes in the box because Cedar Rapids scored a power-play goal.
Overall, it was a rather uneventful evening. I tossed five or six pucks to the linesman after the puck in play sailed over the glass or had an edge sliced off by a skate.
I gave that puck to a young boy who was sitting next to the penalty box with his dad and his younger brother.
Seeing the action in the nearside corners isn’t the best and the smells, even in the third period, were not bad. I’ve smelled worse (I’ve had three sons involved in sports so I know the smells associated with sweaty bodies and stinky shoes). It wasn’t like I had to open the door and air out the penalty box or anything.
Yes, I will be back in the home team’s penalty box at some point in the near future.
But, I do have one other off-ice official’s duty I plan to tackle at some point in time.