By Craig Anderson
There have been plenty of instances when brothers will play together on the ice in the Elite League, but two brothers from Fife have become the first to officiate together in Scotland.
Ice Hockey UK Referee Section officials Graham and Scott Rodger were linesmen when Fife Flyers hosted University of Manitoba Bisons on Thursday and for the Rodger family, it was perhaps a bigger occasion than just an exhibition game.
Although the youngest at 23, Graham has been involved in the Elite League for two years while elder brother, Scott, 29, is make his first steps at the top level in the UK.
And after coming through their first game together, Scott revealed he had spoken to his sibling about the match and how they would deal with it.
“Graham and I had a chat beforehand about things such as player management, keeping face offs nice and tight and generally keeping the head up,” Scott said.
“We agreed to do the simple things right and see how it goes. I was excited to work with him beforehand and now the first game is out the way, we’ll see where we go from here.
“It was good to work the game with Graham and it’s a proud moment for the family. It’s a special occasion for us and being the first brothers in Scotland to officiate a game at this level is great.”
Graham added: “On a professional level, it’s a dream come true and the feeling of looking over to the other side of the ice and seeing him there, thinking “we’ve done this together” makes me proud.
“It was emotional and the family were absolutely proud to see out there together so it’s been a special night for us all.”
The brothers, from Leven, have made a rapid rise to the top with Graham only officiating for five years, while Scott only got involved in February 2017.
Both men, who also hold licences to officiate IIHF games, started at the junior levels and worked their way to the top as they prepare for a campaign in the Elite League, but they admit it hasn’t been easy at times.
Graham prefers to look on the bright side of what is an admittedly difficult job at times and wouldn’t rule out a move to become a referee in the future, revealing how he deals with the tougher aspects of it.
He said: “It’s never an easy job, but I don’t play anymore so I’m still involved in the game. It’s quite strange because people are always asking how I can enjoy it. The truth is I love it.
“Going on road trips to different rinks, who always make you feel welcome wherever you go and exchanging chat with the players. Once you get to know the guys, you get to understand them.
“When you’re an official, you get abuse no matter what so switching off that is important and that’s when I discovered I could do that.
“Becoming a referee in the Elite League is something I’ll consider in the future, but for now, I’m happy learning my trade as a linesman before I even really think about that.”
Scott, on the other hand, is fully focussed on going as far as he can as he makes the step up after officiating at the NIHL 2 play-off weekend in Widnes last season.
But he highlighted how there is a need for more officials in Scotland when he discovered the numbers that were regularly covering games.
And he admits it was something he didn’t enjoy at first as he made his first steps at the junior level 18 months ago.
“I didn’t enjoy officiating at first,” he revealed. “It took me a few weeks to start to get used to it and I just wanted to get off the ice at first. I think that came down to confidence and once you build that, it’s easier to deal with.
“I knew there was a shortage of officials in Scotland when I signed up and it wasn’t until I got properly started, it became how apparent how bad it was.
“It’s pretty frightening to think a small group of us manage to cover so many games across the whole of Scotland every weekend.
“A lot of the other guys put a lot of sacrifice into making sure games go ahead so with that and Graham’s progress, it inspired me to want to do it too.
“As for being a ref, that’s not something I’m looking at just yet. I’m still quite new in a lot of ways and learning my trade.
“It’s not something I’m keen on just yet so for now, I’m happy working away at the side.”
Ice Hockey UK’s Referee Chief Joy Johnston spoke of her delight at seeing Graham and Scott coming together for a such high-profile game and is looking forward to seeing more of them in the new season.
She said: “Having the Rodger brothers both working as linesman in the Elite League is a real achievement for the IHUK Referee Section.
“We’ve had several father and son or father and daughter officiating combinations and we have several brothers who officiate together, but Scott and Graham will be the first brothers to work together as officials at the Elite League level in Scotland.
“This is a huge achievement and paves the way for other brothers to work together to make it to the top in officiating.
“The officiating team is the third and often forgotten team in all hockey games and we’ve worked hard as a Referee Section over the last 18 months to create a strong team culture and “Team Stripes” has really started to take shape.
“Successful officiating involves strong team work and trust and so where brothers are concerned this clearly comes naturally.
“We wish them both all the best and hope it is the start of many games for them working as an officiating team in the Elite League this season.”
Anyone interested in attending a level 1 course should fill in this expression of interest form and then as soon as we have dates and venues booked for courses they will be sent the information and given priority booking before the courses are released to the general public to book onto.
Any club interested in hosting a level 1 course for officials and helping us to grow the number of officials should contact our Level 1 Course Manager Tom.Stephenson@ihukreferee.co.uk