By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. – Here’s a scene that has played out many, many, times: Gwinnett Gladiators’ head coach Jeff Pyle leaping furiously up off the bench to stand, leaning precariously toward the ice and shouting at the officials.
At which point, the officials either skated away (which tended to cause Pyle to yell more vehemently) or skate over to attempt to talk about whatever call – or non-call – had drawn Pyle’s ire.
These are not situations conducive to constructive discourse.
This weekend, however, is.
Pyle is one of several guest speakers for the ECHL officials training camp, being held in Gwinnett for the first time.
The majority of the league’s referees and linesmen will be in attendance, as will a handful of promising officials from the junior and USA Hockey ranks.
The three-day event includes on-ice skating sessions at the IceForum in Duluth and Gwinnett Center, but the bulk of the officials’ time will be spent in meetings and discussions.
Pyle is one of the people scheduled to speak, as is Gladiators’ general manager Steve Chapman.
“I think there’s a bad communication between coaches and referees,” Pyle said. “I’m not sure if they know what we think and I’m not quite sure I know what they think.
“So I’m really kind of doing this for my own, more of a personal way to find information about why certain things happen the way they do.”
Pyle said he has no intention of using the platform to lodge complaints.
“Because I know it’s a tough job,” Pyle said.
For the last couple of years, the officials’ training camp has been held in two sites, one nearer to each coast.
Bryan Lewis, the ECHL Director of Officiating, said the league thought two camps would allow a greater number of people to be involved. But having everyone come to Gwinnett this year presented a confluence of circumstances that was too good to pass up.
Part of that was the willingness of the Gladiators, and its NHL affiliate in Atlanta, to participate. Pyle and Chapman will be talking to the group, but the Gladiators also helped secure the ice time, hotel accommodations and meeting space.
The Thrashers have a preseason game Saturday night that all the ECHL officials will be attending and the NHL officials assigned to that game against St. Louis are coming to address to the group earlier in the day.
Another key factor was the availability of non-stop flights to Atlanta from virtually every ECHL official’s location.
And in a little bit of quid pro quo, Lewis and Rod Pasma, the ECHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, are attending the Gladiators’ open house event Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Lewis said wherever the training camp has been in the past, the ECHL has asked the coach from that city to come and speak. He said it helps develop better relationships between the two sides.
“We appreciate that they take the time,” Lewis said. “The off-ice chief comes in to talk as well.
“It gives us a rapport that might not otherwise be there. Each time a coach shows up, they see what we do (to prepare for the season). There’s definitely a value in it.”
Officials will participate in skating drills and rules tests as well as going through the rule book cover to cover, Lewis said.
This isn’t a year in which any major rules changes are being enacted, which gave the league a unique opportunity to involve some up-and-coming officials from the junior and USA Hockey ranks. Some of the more experienced linesmen will not be attending, so the ECHL can use this as a bit of a developmental tool.
“We’ve never been able to open this up as much (to outside officials),” Lewis said.
Rob Montepare, a Collins Hill grad, is one of the linesmen attending the training camp. It will be the first such camp for Montepare.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Montepare said. “It’s getting to see the guys, because you develop a real family relationship with these guys, but also too it means it’s hockey season again.”
Montepare has the added bonus of being at home for the training camp.
“I get to sleep in my own bed, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you spend 120 nights on the road, it’s a nice little treat,” he said.