When the La Ronge Ice Wolves host the Humboldt Broncos on Friday at the Mel Hegland Arena there will be a lot more going on than just the Ice Wolves looking to move above the .500 level for the first time this season.
The game will also mark the end of an era when long-time linesman Bruce Skilliter works his final game. Having turned 60 years old this year, Skilliter feels now is the time to call it a career on the ice.
“It’s time,” says Skilliter simply. “I’ve been in the league since 1993 so now it is time to move on to do something else.”
Skilliter first started officiating when he was a teenager and while living in Kindersley he began his long association with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. During that time his son Graham took up the craft and has since become an official in the National Hockey League. The younger Skilliter will be at the game on Friday, which makes the senior Skilliter very happy.
“It was a game he could make so it was decided this is the time,” says Skilliter. “I’m sure it will be a bit emotional, but once the puck drops everything will be good.”
Over the 45 years he has been involved in the game Skilliter also worked games at the Midget AAA level and once was called upon to line an international game between a CIS line-up and a touring Czech Republic squad.
He says the game, and the SJHL in particular, have been very good to him.
“It’s the best seat in the house,” says Skilliter. “The SJHL has allowed me to do a higher level of hockey and I have met a lot of people.”
League president Bill Chow adds ”that it is because of the dedication, commitment and passion shown by people like Skilliter that makes the SJHL so special. Chow goes on to Thank Bruce’s family for the time they have given to the SJHL when Bruce has spent so many hours away from them during his time as an official in the SJHL.”
While the on-ice road ends on Friday, Skilliter says he plans to remain involved in the game as an off-ice official. He says he hopes his lengthy involvement in the game can be an inspiration to others and he offers some words of advice to aspiring officials.
“Just have fun; that’s the big thing,” says Skilliter. “Be honest to yourself and to all of the players. For the little guys it might be their Stanley Cup so always give it the best you have.”
The SJHL is better because of people like Skilliter and for that the league will always be indebted to people like him.