March 18, 2010

He's whistling while he works

PAUL BETIT

— By

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Derek Davis/Staff photographer: Linesman Landon Bathe gets set to drop the puck on a face off, Saturday, November 24, 2007, during an AHL game between the Portland Pirates and Manchester Monarchs at Cumberland County Civic Center.

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Derek Davis/Staff photographer: Linesman Landon Bathe watches a play unfold, Saturday, November 24, 2007, during an AHL game between the Portland Pirates and Manchester Monarchs at Cumberland County Civic Center.

Staff Writer

While growing up in Scarborough, Landon Bathe dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League -- just like his dad.

That dream ended two years ago when Bathe blew out his left knee while playing for the ECHL's Stockton (Calif.) Thunder.

Bathe won't make it to the NHL as a player, but he could as a linesman.

Less than two years after starting to officiate hockey games, Bathe, son of a former NHL defenseman, Frank Bathe, appears on a fast track.

''Landon is sort of unique because he played a little bit in our league and the ECHL as well,'' said Jim Mill, executive vice president for hockey operations for the American Hockey League. ''He's come up quickly but he's come up through the ranks no less.''

In addition to playing for three ECHL teams during his four-year pro playing career, Bathe, 25, had brief stints in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals and the defunct Utah Grizzlies.

''We always like to get former players involved in officiating, and he's a good example of that,'' Mill said. ''We don't have to worry about their skating ability or their feel for the game for the most part. Those are two attributes he certainly has.''

Typically, on-ice officials advance to the AHL after working their way through USA Hockey, which sanctions amateur hockey in this country, or through the ECHL, the Central League or Canadian junior leagues.

''Once they establish themselves in hockey, we take the best from those leagues,'' said Mill, who was impressed with Bathe at a USA Hockey tournament in Minnesota two summers ago.

''It's a pretty small group of people watching these officials,'' Mill said.

''We have people watching them through the National Hockey League and so forth, and it's a pretty tight-knit group of guys. His name came from a lot of different sources and I heard good things about him.''

Bathe said his experience as a player has enabled him to develop quickly as a linesman.

''I know where to be,'' he said. ''I know what's going to happen before it happens. I know exactly what they're trying to do, and that helps me big-time. I know where to be at the right time.''

In the AHL, a linesman's duties includes ruling on offside and icing, handling faceoffs and breaking up fights .

Fighting is one element of the game Bathe, a noted brawler in his playing days, really knows.

''You've got to know when to step in, especially when they fall down,'' he said.

''You don't want a guy to fall down and hit his head on the ice or a guy to hit him when he's (down) on the ice. That's a cheap shot. That's when I come in to hold him back.''

Bathe, who has served as a linesman at several Portland Pirates games at the Cumberland County Civic Center, doesn't look out of place.

''A good referee or linesman, you're supposed to not notice them too much when they do a great job,'' said Wayne Schaab, an original Maine Mariner, as was Bathe's father, and who approved of how the younger Bathe handled himself in a recent game at the Civic Center.

''I thought he did a great job. He looked comfortable out there and I thought he was relaxed.''

Bathe played one season at Cheverus High in Portland when Schaab coached the Stags.

''He was a scrappy player, very aggressive,'' said Schaab, who kidded Bathe about how he handled a fight after watching him officiate.

''I told him I thought he let them go a little bit because he was enjoying it.''

Bathe's father is glad his son has found a way to stay in hockey.

''No one grows up wanting to be a referee. Very few,'' said Frank Bathe, a veteran of nine NHL seasons who helped the Mariners win the Calder Cup in 1978 and '79 in their first two seasons.

''They all see the bad side of it. They think they're going to be booed. But overall it's a pretty good thing to get into. What I'm happy with overall is he enjoys it. That's the main thing.''

Bathe said his father even has complimented him on his work as a linesman.

''Actually, he's been telling me I've done a good job for once,'' Bathe joked.

''When I was playing he was telling me I stink. Now he's telling me I do a good job. I must be doing something right.''

Bathe's job as a pro hockey linesman keeps him busy.

Typically, his schedule includes AHL games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons.

In addition, he's often assigned by USA Hockey to serve as a linesman in games in the Eastern League and the United States Hockey League, the nation's top two junior leagues.

''My goal is to make it to the NHL,'' he said. ''I had my shot at playing and didn't make it to that league. Now I hope I can make it this way and have a long career doing this.''

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 725-8795 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com

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