OHL Linesman Cory Piche has dipped his toes into the AHL pool, but is still waiting to make the jump into the big leagues. From Kevin Gould at the Cornwall Standard Freeholder:
He makes the calls, and he’s waiting for ‘the call’.
“You just keep working. Every summer you hope, and wait for that phone call,” says linesman Cory Piche, originally from Cornwall and now living in Burlington, Ont.
‘The call’ would be from the NHL, which is the ultimate goal for any official making their way up the hockey refereeing ladder.
The next few years will be important ones for Piche, 25. Typically, if officials are going to make the ultimate jump to the NHL, it happens between the ages of 25-30.
“There are exceptions, some guys go when they’re older, but that’s basically the way it happens,” says Piche, who will work the lines this season predominantly in the OHL, but also for AHL games (in Toronto and Hamilton) and CHL games (Brampton has a franchise in the CHL). Piche also works some OHA games (equivalent to the CCHL which the Cornwall Colts play in) in the Toronto area.
It makes for a busy, and possibly confusing, schedule.
“The higher league kind of has trump, so if you get an AHL game and an OHL game, you would generally take the AHL game,” explains Piche. “You work with supervisors, and they’re generally pretty accommodating. In the playoffs, it’s day to day, waiting by the phone, and seeing if you make it to the next round.”
Last season, Piche made it all the way to the OHL finals, working two games, including the series-clinching Game 5. He also worked in the Memorial Cup, held in London.
“It’s definitely one of the highlights so far, working those games,” said Piche.
There have been many other notable assignments in a refereeing career that started in 2002, but one stands out for Piche.
“My dad was out for my first AHL game, in San Antonio, so that was pretty special,” he said.
His dad is Denis Piche, his mom Christine. Denis Piche is a long-time referee locally, and Cory credits his father for help getting him to don the zebra stripes. “My dad and I got into it, probably 12 or 13 years ago,” said Cory, who was playing competitive hockey before working as an official.
“At one point, I kind of lost interest, I wasn’t enjoying it (playing) as much as I used to. I stopped playing altogether, going into Grade 8 I think.” The referee’s whistle soon called him back to the game. “I started reffing, and I really enjoyed it right off the bat, mostly because I missed the skating,” he says. He continued to officiate while attending St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Cornwall, and while at Algonquin College (Recreation and Facility Management) in Ottawa.
After college, Piche went stateside, officiating CHL games in the southern United States for a year. He moved to the Toronto area — living in downtown TO for a year before moving to Burlington with his wife, Kathryn — to be closer for games in the OHL. “Probably five or six years ago, when I went down to the States, that’s when I decided (to pursue an officiating career),” says Piche. “I really enjoyed it. I looked into the avenues of maybe making it into the NHL some day.”
When/if that happens is of course the great unknown. “They (the NHL) play their cards pretty close to the chest,” said Piche. “I’ve been told I’m on the list, I just don’t know how high.”
Regardless, Piche intends to keep working the lines; it’s something he enjoys. He must, working 96 games last season, which is a little higher than his norm.
Some games are more high-profile than others, but he enjoys them all. The obvious question though, is, do zebras get butterflies?
“Oh yeah, I get nervous right before I get on the ice,” says Piche, who uses time during the singing of the national anthem to make sure he’s ready for action. “I take that time to focus. After that, you hope for a quick whistle to get you into it, and you settle into the game pretty quick.”
He’s heard it all of course, from fans, players and coaches, and no, he doesn’t always get the call right.
“One that comes to mind, was in the OHL Conference Final last year, and about six seconds in, I missed an offside call — I didn’t know it at the time, but I did later — and there was a goal,” recalls Piche. “Thankfully, it was an 8-1 game, so it didn’t really impact on it, but still, you think, that’s it, that can make the difference if it comes down to two guys (for promotion).”
What to do when you do miss a call?
“You just have to let it go, or you’ll lose focus for the rest of the game,” says Piche. “Just like if you’re a player, and you take a bad penalty, or you muff an easy goal, you just have to forget about it. If you get called out, by a player or a coach, and you know you got it wrong, you have to admit it. I think a coach respects that, owning up to a mistake.”