What comes around seems to go around as youth hockey officials Nick Penberthy and his brother Tyler, of Amherst, got the opportunity to meet some National Hockey League officials before the start of the Buffalo Sabres game against the Montreal Canadiens last Friday.
Four years ago, Nick, a freshman at Cortland State College, started a backyard hockey tournament for high school students. Since then Nick has raised more than $10,000 for Hasek's Heroes, which provides hockey equipment, ice time and travel to out-of-town tournaments for children in low- to moderate-income families.
Wanting to do more involving hockey, the Penberthy brothers became officials for youth hockey.
Gary Cutler, a representative of USA Hockey, called Nick and Tyler, a junior at Williamsville North High School, and offered them an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at officiating at the NHL level, as part of USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend Across America.
So when the day finally came, the boys arrived at the First Niagara Center and were escorted to the officials' locker room to meet the crew that would be working the game.
"Speaking with the NHL officials was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Nick said. "I was shocked at how personal they were with us, we carried out a casual conversation and they answered all of our questions providing us with important knowledge regarding officiating, in addition to [other] things we wanted to know."
The boys were provided tickets to watch the game from the press box and they met broadcasters Rick Jeanneret and Harry Neal.
"Their voices in person were even more powerful, especially Rick's," Nick said. "Hearing his voice brought up memories of all his most popular calls throughout Sabres history and brought chills to me."
During the first intermission they got a tour of the replay review booth, and at the end of the game they attended Lindy Ruff's post-game news conference.
"I plan to continue staying involved with the sport I love, but I most look forward to applying the same passion that I have for hockey to teaching," said Nick, who is studying childhood education at Cortland.
This year's fundraiser, the Tim Hortons Backyard Classic, will be a street hockey tournament on March 3. Nick and his brother are hoping to raise more than $10,000 this year. For more information, visit www.timhortonsbackyardclassic.com.
Keith Latta is a sophomore at Newfane High School.