Linesman relishes Mac's assignment
St. Albert official Leasure Forbes works midget AAA world invitation tournament
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 04, 2014 06:00 am
Working the lines at the 36th annual Mac's Midget AAA World Invitation Tournament was the experience of a lifetime for Leasure Forbes.
“It was incredible. I had no idea my name was even in the bucket for it,” said Forbes, the peewee interlock assigner for the St. Albert Referees Association. “It was definitely a surprise and a thrill to get the opportunity. It’s something I know a lot of the guys in St. Albert are working hard to get there and it was great to have that opportunity to represent our zone and myself.”
Forbes, 22, did four games at the Mac’s in Calgary during the Christmas break. It was his biggest assignment since the Medicine Hat bantam AAA tournament five years ago.
“It was a great eye opener. Doing a tournament in a different zone there is a lot of different opinions and different viewpoints. They also bring a lot of pretty high profile people out to supervise and watch you and give feedback so it was great. I got feedback from WHL refs and linesmen about the different things they see that could help me get to their level,” said Forbes, a registered official for nine years. “I also want to progress to be a caller [referee] at the Mac’s tournament in the next couple of years so getting to see all the callers there, they’re the top guys in the province, and kind of pick up on what they’re doing will hopefully help myself get there in a couple of years.”
It’s the little things that make a big difference for aspiring officials like Forbes.
“Sometimes it just comes down to fine detail things and appearances. You can be doing everything right but it’s how you do it. The expectations from the north zone to the south zone of Alberta for what they expect to see are so different so it’s just as important to do as many of those little things as you can right,” said Forbes one of four linesmen from the north zone assigned to the Mac’s, in addition to referee Brayden Arcand of Riviere Qui Barre. “The calibre of referees out there is great to get that experience and go through their pre-game rituals and just see how they mentally prepare for games as well.”
Forbes welcomed the Mac’s challenge with open arms.
“The players are such high performance athletes that you’ve got to show up and make sure you’re performing and giving you’re A game every night. You have to make sure you’re doing everything you can to make sure their game goes as fairly well as possible,” said the Paul Kane High School graduate.
“I’m comfortable at that level and skating at that level but every game is a challenge. There is always something new happening in a game. There are different barriers you overcome each game. There is I guess challenges communicating with the coaches because the rules are different in Alberta. There is minor differences between Alberta and Saskatchewan even so there is challenges with making sure the coaches understand why things are being called.”
Love of the game
At the local level Forbes does lines in midget AAA, junior B and senior hockey and is a caller the majority of the time in minor midget AAA and bantam AAA.
“The way it basically works is I call anything I can in St. Albert that St. Albert assigns and then I do lines in the senior program, which is where I do a lot of the junior B and senior hockey,” said Forbes, who is working towards representing the north zone at the 2014 Alberta Cup for second-year bantam AAA players. “Obviously I hope to move into the caller’s position for midget AAA and junior B and hopefully soon I get a chance to poke my head into AJ hockey hopefully the WHL eventually.”
Forbes started officiating around age 13 with friends he played hockey with.
“I found out pretty quickly as a player I wasn’t going too far so it was a great way to stay involved with the game and to be part of a hockey game at a high calibre level,” said the former defenceman who advanced as far as midget A in St. Albert and junior B for the Merchants. “I played a fairly decent level of hockey and I understand the game quite well so I find that I’m able to do the levels and push myself to get to the next level.
“I love the game. I love to be on the ice skating. I’m probably skating five, six seven times a week.”
The toughest part of the job is the lack of respect for officials.
“The respect aspect in the game still needs a lot of work. An example of that is a couple of games ago. I had a player injured by a dirty check and I did exactly everything I could. I called a major. I did a game report to the president. But the kid’s dad was yelling at me and I’m like how is this my fault?” Forbes said. “We’re just kind of the scapegoat for people and it’s always the ref’s fault, but what we’re trying to do is keep everyone safe and have a fair game.
“We (officials) are always respectful even when we are being disrespected, and that’s the most difficult part.”
Forbes is lucky to be skating after breaking both heels and left ankle and wrecked his left knee from a five-metre fall in Berlin two years ago. He was attending university in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was backpacking in Germany with a referee buddy when the nasty spill occurred in late June.
“They kind of had to rebuild my knee and I ended up lucking out there. Their health-care system is pretty good and one of the top surgeons in the world operated on me,” said Forbes, who was a Berlin hospital for 10 days before returning home.
Forbes was bedridden the whole summer and wasn’t expected to start skating again until Christmas time but was back on the blades in November.
“I progressed way ahead of the timeline, from getting out of the wheelchair to getting on crutches then a cane and then back on my feet,” he said. “Every day I was doing something to get back on my feet. I did physio, a lot of swimming and a lot of rehab pretty well every day. I love hockey and I was eager to get back on the ice.
“I’m still battling and pushing to get back to where I was on the ice [before the accident]. The challenges are not over. They’re still there.”
While recovering Forbes took on the responsibility as the peewee interlock assignor.
“I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get on the ice but I still wanted to help out in the local community and kind of do my part and stay involved,” he said. “I’m kind of one of the senior supervisors and mentors for the younger officials in St. Albert. I spend lot of time coming out and watching guys and helping them out and giving back to the community.”
Forbes is grateful for the support he received from the St. Albert’s stars in stripes.
“Our referee-in-chief, Joe Becigneul, has been a very big supporter. He’s always been behind me and helping me get to where I can today. I’m very appreciated,” he said. “The local community of refs we have has kind of grown over the last couple of years into a family thing and everyone kind of rallied behind my injury. They were there for me and once I got going they were there pushing me and making sure that I was getting better. They were always helping getting me there.”