TTHS graduate Eric Weakley is enjoying life on the blue line
Dodging flying pucks. Avoiding oncoming skaters. Breaking up brawls between 220-pound defensemen.
It’s all in a night’s work for 1988 Tahoe-Truckee High School graduate Eric Weakley, 27, who is currently a linesman in the West Coast Hockey League. During the summer, he is a linesman in the Roller Hockey International League, which is the highest level of roller hockey in the United States.
“Hockey linesmen call offsides, icing and severe penalties that the referee doesn’t see,” said Weakley after calling the Reno Renegades versus San Diego Gulls game Saturday night at the Reno Convention Center. “They drop the puck for the face-offs and, of course, they break up the fights.”
It was an unusual trip from Truckee to the WCHL for Weakley, who said he has never played competitive hockey in his life.
“I grew up in Truckee and played some hockey with my Dad on Glenshire Pond, but that was it as far as hockey went,” Weakley said. “After high school, I went to Sierra College and started playing and refereeing roller hockey games. I went from scratch – not knowing anything about the rules. It turned out I liked refereeing the games more than playing.”
Wanting to get more serious about refereeing hockey, Weakley decided to attend an officials camp in Canada.
“I attended the Western Hockey League’s (an amateur league in Canada) refereeing school two years in a row to learn the game,” said Weakley, who had to pay his own way to the camps. “Several NHL (National Hockey league) referees and linesmen have also gone to their camps.”
After completing the WHL officiating camps, Weakley began calling Roller Hockey International games for the Sacramento River Rats and the Oakland Skates as well as WCHL games at Reno Renegades, Fresno Falcons and Bakersfield Fog home games. (He was also hoping to officiate some International Hockey League games featuring the San Francisco Spiders this year, but the Spiders went “belly-up” this season.)
For both the WCHL and RHI games, Weakley receives $75 and his travel expenses.
“It’s more of a hobby rather than a second job,” said Weakley, who works in Roseville as a collision repair operations manager when he’s not on the road officiating. “I wish it was a full-tme job, but there isn’t the level of hockey in this area to make it full time. The money doesn’t really matter; I just like to do it.”
Like the players in the minor-league West Coast Hockey League, Weakley hopes to someday make the National Hockey League.
“The ultimate goal would be to make the NHL,” Weakley said. “But there are 21-year-olds already officiating at this level of hockey. I know in my mind I might not make it to the NHL, but I can accept that.”
Because of his size, Weakley, who is 6′ and 160 pounds, said he might have a better chance of making the NHL as a referee.
“Size matters in the NHL when you are breaking up a fight – you need the force to separate two bigger players,” Weakley said. “Most of the linesmen in the NHL are about 6’3″ and 195 pounds.”
Before he can become a referee in the WCHL, Weakley said he needs to accumulate some more ice time as an official.
“Becoming a referee just involves getting more experience,” Weakley said. “A referee needs to know what penalties to enforce and the knowledge to know when to make a call or just let one go.”
During Saturday’s game, Weakley was in the midst of a fight between Reno’s and San Diego’s
“I enjoy breaking up the fights, but it’s also one of the toughest parts of the job,” Weakley said. “Knowing when to separate the players comes with training and experience. You want to do it when they get tired or when one player falls to the ground. If you’re not careful when they throw blows, you’ll get hit. But most are real pros and will break it up when you separate them.”
Weakley said it’s easy to know when he’s called a good game.
“When the players and coaches aren’t yelling at you after the game, you know you’ve done a good job, Weakley said.
The Renegades defeated the Gulls 4-3 Saturday night behind the sharp goaltending of Manon Rheaume. The Renegades, currently mired in fifth-place in the West Coast Hockey League, have one home game remaining on the schedule this season. They meet the Gulls this Sunday afternoon at 2:35 p.m. at the Reno Sparks Convention Center. For information, call (702) 828-3400.
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