KMHA: Your first NHL game, can you describe the day and what was going through your mind when you stepped on the ice for the very first time?
Andrew: Honestly, everything happened so fast. The schedule came out and my first game ended up being in Pittsburgh against the St. Louis Blues. It just so happened to be Pittsburgh's home opener and banner night after they won the cup. I drove down the night before with my family and before you know it, it was game day. Game days for us are generally repetitive so it was business as usual. Breakfast, workout, team lunch, nap, game time. I remember leaving the officials room, standing in the tunnel, fans were going nuts as the banner was being raised. I knew exactly where my family was sitting right across from the tunnel. I remember finding them and stepping foot on the NHL ice. 9 seconds into the game the puck ended up in the bench so I grabbed a new one from the penalty bench skated to the center ice dot and in came Sidney Crosby and Paul Statsny. Pretty cool moment to start my career. To this day I still look up to those seats and I can picture my family standing for the anthem with me, pretty cool! It was a quick turnaround because I had to work the New York Rangers home opener the next night at MSG, one of my favourite buildings to work in!
KMHA: As in any job, comes highs and lows – can you share a NHL moment that makes you chuckle and one that was more challenging?
Andrew: We strive for perfection each and every night we step on the ice. The reality of it is, there will always be something that you can improve upon each and every night. We are our harshest critics because we care so much about the game of hockey and our body of work. It’s the type of work where you must learn from the lows and enjoy the highs but, don’t get to high because the game will humble you.
I wouldn’t say there is a particular moment that makes me chuckle but I was in Nashville last night and there was a family of 4 sitting on the glass. There were two young kids a boy and a girl, as linesman we have to change pucks before we resume play during the TV time out so we can often times give pucks to kids sitting on the glass. I noticed this young family and decided I want to make sure each kid got a game used puck before the game was over. So during the time out I skated over to the penalty box, grabbed a new puck, put it on the dot where the upcoming face off woudl be, grabbed the used puck and tossed it over the glass making sure each kid got a puck before the end of the game. After the game, as I was skating off the ice, I noticed the dad banging on the glass. He wanted to get a picture of me, with his boy and girl holding up the pucks I gave them. That’s what its all about!
KMHA: The game is fast, making split second decisions, how did you adjust to the change in tempo? Was there anyone who took the “new kid” under their wing?
Andrew: A lot of it had to do with my conditioning and skating ability. You have to keep up with your strength and conditioning and you need to be able to skate.
My first trips and games were with Scott Driscoll from Guelph. He was the one that took me under his wing and taught me everything you need to know about travel, expenses, and what it took daily to be an NHL Official. Scott Cherrey from Kitchener called me when my first assignment came out and spent about 40 minutes on the phone with me, walked me through the booking of flights, hotels, and rental cars. Kendrick Nicholson of Ayr, invited Kels and I over to his house to meet the guys the summer I got hired. Derek Amell from Oshawa, who I worked my first playoff round with, showed me what it took to work in the playoffs. He went on to work his 7th Stanley Cup at the time. I could tell you something about every guy on staff and what they’ve done for me and taught me. It’s a great group of guys and I’m honoured to be apart of this team!
KMHA: When breaking up a fight, how is your approach different now, if it is, than when you started? Do you have “diffusing” tactics you use?
Andrew: Scrums and fights are an important role that linesman have in the game. I’ve learned from the best linesman in the world and I’ve gotten better at it through experience. When going into a fight or a scrum its not only about player safety but your safety as well. Players at the time of battle are emotional and tensions are high. I believe its important to go in with a calming presence, saying things like, “we're done”, “great job”, “good battle”, “don’t worry we got him” (if there’s a penalty on the play). Sometimes you could say something outrageous, catch the players off guard and their attention goes to you instead of the player their in battle with. Breaking up scrums and fights isn’t a physical battle you need to have good presence and communicate effectively to diffuse the situation.
KMHA: During these last two seasons under COVID, what has been the most challenging aspect and what do you miss the most from a normal season?
Andrew: The most difficult has been maneuvering around COVID. The NHL has done an amazing job through the protocols in place to keep us safe but it doesn’t mean it's easy to navigate through the season. Our travelling and working conditions have changed for the better during these difficult times but I miss the little things that we took for granted before COVID.
I miss walking through the tunnel out onto the ice with 20,000 fans in the building. I tell you from experience, there’s nothing like walking through that tunnel onto the stage. I love it so much, it gives me chills thinking about it. We have a lot to be thankful for but at the same time I’m excited to get back to a new norm.
KMHA: What do you enjoy doing during the off season? Do you have an off season “stay in shape / ready to go” routine you keep?
Andrew: I have a golf membership at Whistle Bear with Scott Cherrey and Kendrick Nicholson so I try and play as much golf as I can. During the season we don’t have much time at home so I’ll try and tackle a couple projects around the house. Also, I try to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.
When it comes to preparing for the next season I workout at TNT Training with Tyler Taylor every morning Monday through Friday. Tayls has a great facility in Waterloo and I rely on his expertise to get me ready for the upcoming season. I can’t thank him enough for his commitment and dedication to me, he’s taken me to the next level! Once August roles around I’ll start skating with the Ontario NHL Officials in Guelph and try to book a couple power skating sessions with Bob Mackowski at the end of August to put the finishing touches on preparation for training camp in early September.
KMHA: For our youth today, looking back at your journey, what advise would you offer to them?
Andrew: Dream! Commit to your dreams daily and do whatever you can to make them come true. Trust me, its worth it!