Near the Pats’ dressing room in the lower level of the Brandt Centre, you’ll find a wall listing all the players to captain the Blue and White over the years. As is the case with junior hockey, most names are only listed once while a select few are listed for multiple years. One of the latter is former Pats defenceman Chris Schlenker. The Medicine Hat, AB native captained the Pats from 2002-2004 when he was moved to the Prince Albert Raiders late in the season.
After his Major Junior playing time was over, Schlenker played briefly in Europe before returning to Canada and skating onto a new path as an official. Schlenker now embarks on his first full season as a WHL referee, which is impressive considering the 29-year old is only in his third season of officiating games. It was a drive to be involved in a high level of hockey that brought the former WHL’er to officiating.
“Some guys I work with pressured me after playing some senior hockey and I thought I would definitely enjoy it. It’s a way to stay in competitive hockey rather than rec league which, sometimes, isn’t as competitive.”
On September 14th, Schlenker was partnered with fellow referee Nathan Wieler to officiate the Pats’ final pre-season game of 2013. It was his first game wearing the stripes for a Pats contest.
“I was probably just as nervous for (the game) as I was for my first one back in 2001, but the friendly game day staff and the friendly people around here make things a lot easier.”
For the most part, we think of the fans of teams occupying the stands and maybe families of the players in their hometown, but sometimes the officials have fans in the crowd too. Schlenker’s family travelled to Regina from Medicine Hat to see him on the ice at the Brandt Centre.
“My wife and three kids made the trek and they were pretty excited as they only get to watch the Tigers games at home so they get to see some different games and they’re probably bigger hockey fans than I am so it’s pretty exciting. My seven-year old found a referee jersey with my name on it so he was pretty excited for today’s game and it was pretty neat for me too.”
Now wearing the black and white, Schlenker finds a new appreciation for what it takes to be making the calls that have so much impact on the game.