Kirk Wood didn't become one of the most respected linesmen in the East Coast Hockey League by being a nice guy.
The 27-year-old understands that in the world of a professional hockey official, respect is a two-way street.
"In this job, we all have nights where it gets a little tough out there and tempers flare," Wood said. "You may not always make the right call, but you want people to know you're trying out there, and that you mean business. I don't have to be friends with everybody, but I try to treat everybody with respect. And hopefully, you get the same in return."
On the ice, Wood admits he isn't out to win a popularity contest. But that's not to say he isn't one of the good guys of the league.
The Stratford, Ontario, native worked Friday night's Lynx game, and was back at the civic center early Saturday morning to conduct a free clinic for local officials from the Southern Ice Hockey Association, which runs youth and adult leagues at the Augusta IceForum. The Lynx and civic center offered the ice to SIHA at no cost.
"To me, doing stuff like this is the best part of the job," Wood said. "I'm passionate about hockey and about what I do, and I enjoy the feeling of giving something back and contributing."
Nearing the end of his second season in the ECHL, Wood has logged close to 70,000 miles on his Hyundai, working about five games a week all across the Southeast. During the season, he lives in Charlotte, N.C., with three fellow ECHL officials -- referees Dave Hansen and Craig Hansen and linesman Terry Wicklum.
And while the pay is modest and the demands rigorous, Wood says the job has many perks.
"The travel's tough, but it's a good opportunity to make a lot of friends and to see the country and a lot of great cities that you wouldn't normally see in a regular job," Wood said. "You get to know a lot of the off-ice officials around the league and go golfing and do stuff with them when you're in town."
Lynx director of off-ice officials Bill Lesshafft, who serves as youth league commissioner for the IceForum leagues and is an SIHA board member, said Wood was a perfect choice to conduct Saturday's clinic.
"Kirk's a special guy who I've gotten familiar with because he's here all the time, and it's great of him to do this for us," Lesshafft said. "He's not only one of the best linesmen in the league but he's also one of the nicest guys around."
As an official bearing the brunt of nightly criticism from fans, coaches and players, Wood says says silence usually is an indicator of his job performance.
"When people don't notice you, you're doing your job," Wood said. "The players are the only reason we as officials have jobs. They're the ones who deserve the attention, and our job is to not attract the spotlight."
Wood said one of the best compliments he has ever received came from Lynx coach Dan Wiebe.
"Dan told me he can tell the difference between an official who is just there because it's a job and an official who wants to develop," Wood said. "And he said he could see that I obviously was out there trying to get better. He may not always agree with a decision I make on the ice, but at least I know he respects the job I'm doing, and that's the most important thing in my mind."
RARE SHUTOUT: Lynx goalie Judd Lambert has won more than 100 games in his college and pro career, but Friday night's 6-0 win over Charlotte was only his eighth career shutout.
Blame it on his own steadiness.
"I've never really been a streaky goaltender, and the guys that are hot and cold are typically the ones who get a bunch of shutouts," Lambert said. "I've always been a steady, even-keel type of goalie where I never try to get too high or too low. I went (16-1-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average at Colorado College in 1995-96), which was by far my best season, but I had one shutout that year.
"Shutouts are nice when you get them," Lambert added, "but they're really no big deal to me. All I care about is getting the win."
For Lambert, Friday night was his second shutout this season and third of his pro career. His first career shutout came last season vs. Baton Rouge. He also blanked Arkansas 6-0 in November.
THE TEACHER, THE KINGFISH: Baton Rouge school teacher Danny Bujold had given up on his dream of playing professional hockey years ago.
But last week, the injury-plagued Baton Rouge Kingfish gave the 29-year-old elementary school French teacher a call, and Bujold answered in impressive style.
Bujold appeared in three games for the Kingfish, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the Southern Conference, and the team went 3-0-0.
Though Bujold did not record a point or shot on goal, Kingfish coach Bob McGill said he gave the team a huge lift.
"He was a good shot in the arm," McGill told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "He came in and did a real good job."
The New Brunswick, Canada, native had played Junior A hockey Canada, which is one level below the highest amateur level (major junior), but he had not played contact hockey in seven years.
He was released last Wednesday after several players returned from injury, and returned to his spot in the press box at the Baton Rouge Centroplex, where he is a member of the Kingfish off-ice officials crew.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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