While NFL referees continue to rack up bad calls, one AHL referee is racking up views on YouTube. Referee David Banfield wore a helmet cam during the Charlotte Checkers annual Teddy Bear Toss in early December. In addition to the tossing of the teddy bears onto the ice, the video includes a near collision at the bench, one unprovoked workplace slip and fall, and a lot of fights. Banfield joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: In addition the helmet cam that I mentioned, you and your linesman were also wearing microphones. Whose idea was this, and why did you agree to it?
DB: I got a call or an email from the league just asking me if I was interested to put on a helmet cam or whatnot and a microphone for our game. Obviously I took the opportunity to do it, and it came out kind of neat.
BL: Being on the ice during a pro hockey game, even in the minor leagues, is something, of course, most of us will never experience, and I cringed when you found yourself in the fray, but the audio was a lot of fun, too. For example, you tell one player, “You’re going to push him on your goalie. That’s a smart move. That’s the s*$^ that creates other s*$^. That’s what I don’t like.” How often are you able to stop a fight just by talking calmly and using the occasional expletive with the players?
DB: Well, sometimes expletives–as everybody knows when they watch games on TV, you certainly see a lot of players using not-too-friendly terms. To get inside the heads of some players on the ice sometimes you just sort of have to step outside the box and use that type of terminology just to diffuse situations. And sometimes it diffuses situations, sometimes it doesn’t. In our case, sometimes it did.
BL: I’m always amazed when I see a hockey official jump out of the way of a puck or nimbly avoid getting caught up in the middle of a check. To be a pro hockey referee it would seem to me you would have to be as least as good a skater as the players.
DB: Well, absolutely when you start out as a young kid everybody has aspirations of playing in the NHL, especially born in Eastern Canada. And, you know, at a certain age I realized I wasn’t going to be doing that, and luckily I was young enough to give it a whirl as a referee.
My dad, he refereed in the NHL way back when in the ’70s. I always went to games with him, watching him, and sort of getting an insight into how they worked together amongst each other and dealt with players, so I was always intrigued, so I decided to try it. And as the years went on I was like, “Maybe this could be something I could try as a job, a career, or whatever.” So that’s where I went with that.
BL: Did you ever think that you would get this much attention for doing your job right? Because usually officials only get attention when they screw something up.
DB: Yeah, it’s kind of funny getting tweets or texts from a number of people—old friends, new friends, whatever it may be—that they enjoyed watching it. It was kind of funny and kind of eye-opening to me. It was pretty cool to see.
BL: There’s just one more thing that I need to mention. Near the end of the video you slip and fall and nobody hits you. You had no excuse. What was going through your mind at that moment?
DB: Well, I was supposed to be skating forward and I ended up skating backward. I hit a little rut or whatever as we always do on the ice sometimes, and unfortunately it got me at the wrong time, and there was nobody near me. The only people in the building that found out was the people sitting at that end because the play was up at the other end of the ice. Obviously all the people who were watching on the helmet cam found out pretty quick, too.