For Tarrington Wyonzek, the childhood dream of making the NHL is still the same- it’s just the jersey that’s changed.
The Yorkton native devoted his childhood to playing hockey, but set his skate on a different path when he roped into refereeing at eleven-years-old for a little extra cash.
“I didn’t really want to at the start,” Wyonzek recalled. “My dad convinced me.”
Despite initial reservations, he quickly rose through the ranks of junior hockey as a player and official.
“By the time he was 15 he was working junior ‘A’ hockey,” Wyonzek’s younger brother, Tannum, added. “so a pretty short time frame to get to that point when the players are 15-20 years old themselves.”
Eventually, Tannum would follow in his footsteps as an official. By the time the brothers were around 16 years old, the dream of playing in the NHL had fully evolved into officiating. When Tarrington was 20, he had donned the stripes full time.
“My dad would drop me off at the rink early in the morning and pick me up late at night. I’d stay and work if there was tournament on, I’d work as many games as I could,” Wyonzek said. “I couldn’t sit at home and watch TV. I had to be out on the rink.”
After five seasons working in the WHL, he’s coming off the opportunity of a lifetime- becoming one of five linesmen to work the 100th Memorial Cup.
The tournament can be a career-changing experience for the lucky junior hockey players who fight for the CHL’s top prize- but behind the scenes, it’s an intense competition for officials to earn their spot on the ice. Officials must meet regular fitness requirements, and undergo vigorous critiques weekly throughout the season.
Wyonzek was the only Saskatchewan official to get the nod.
“I got a phone call from our referee and chief assistant and he just said ‘you’ve got a few more skates left in you this year, congratulations,” Wyonzek said with a smile. “Definitely a call I’ll never forget.”
A small contingent of family and friends cheering for the officials was nestled in among voracious fans at the Brandt Centre to watch Wyonzek at work. After getting his feet wet in round-robin play, he was tapped to work lines for the semi-final match between the Regina Pats and Hamilton Bulldogs.
“A lot of guys work their whole careers just to get to that point,” Tannum said. “Not fairly fresh in their career and getting that opportunity already. So it’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
He’s riding the high right into next season.
Wyonzek was tapped by the American Hockey League to work eleven games in Winnipeg in the 2017/2018 season- tantalizing close to hockey’s top tier.
“I always get those text messages,” Wyonzek laughed. ‘Cant believe it, 12-13 years ago we were trying to convince you to go on the ice, and now look where you are.”