His real job is as an insurance adjuster, showing up after fires and accidents and helping settle claims.

His side gig involves high-speed collisions as well as the occasional haymaker.

For the past two decades, Joe Andrews of South Portland has been moonlighting as an American Hockey League linesman.

“So I take grief all day,” he said, “and then I take it at night, too.”

Now, at 45, he is unlacing his skates for the final time after Saturday night’s game between the Portland Pirates and the Providence Bruins at Cross Insurance Arena. He estimates he is roughly 15 years older than the average AHL official.

“It just seems like a good time,” said Andrews, who’s been officiating pro games since 1994. “It’s the end of the regular season. My oldest son is a senior in high school. He’ll be going off to play lacrosse in college. I don’t want to miss any of his (final high school) games.”

The main responsibilities for a linesman are looking for infractions, such as offsides and icing, and handling faceoffs. He also offers another set of eyes to the referees, the guys wearing orange armbands who actually call the penalties.

A linesman also is expected to break up fights. At 5-foot-11 and 235 pounds, the burly Andrews hasn’t hesitated to throw himself in the middle of scrums. In his early years, there were 30 or 40 per season. These days, there are fewer.

He said he’s been struck by a stray punch only once and doesn’t even remember who threw it. In one of his first years, Andrews intervened in such a tussle at the end of a period and found himself rolling on the floor of an entryway with Pirates fan favorite Kevin “Killer” Kaminski.

“I tackled him to get him off the ice,” said Andrews.


There are other occupational hazards, of course. Pucks regularly find areas of the body unprotected by padding. During a faceoff at a game four or five years ago, Andrews caught a stick in the mouth. The gash required 40 stitches from the Pirates team doctor.

“It happened in the first period,” Andrews said. “I think I missed the second and came back for the third.”

During a New Year’s Eve game a few years ago, a player accidentally kicked him in the leg, resulting in a torn thigh muscle. In his resulting workers’ compensation claim with MEMIC, Andrews was asked if there had been any witnesses to his workplace accident.

“Who saw it?” Andrews repeated. “About 6,000 people.”

Experience has taught Andrews to use his brain more than his brawn when altercations break out. At times his formidable size acts as a barrier between potential combatants. Other times, “I may come in and throw a little humor in there, either that or something off-color,” he said. “Just throw them a curveball to try to ease the tension a little bit.”

Andrews grew up in Concord, New Hampshire, as a hockey player who started officiating youth games at age 12. Turns out he had a knack for the job and continued to do so through high school.

“He told me that one time he was reffing a game that his father was coaching,” said his wife of eight years, Jen Andrews. “They got into an argument and Joe actually had to walk home from the rink because he and his father couldn’t even be in the same car together.”

A defenseman, he stopped playing hockey after his sophomore year at the University of Southern Maine but continued to officiate high school and college games.

“When I was going to school at USM,” he said, “I would go to class with guys I was refereeing that night.”


After completing college, Andrews received a call from someone with the AHL who had seen him at referee camps. Andrews earned $80 per game when he started, an amount that has since risen to $165. Like many young AHL officials, his goal was to advance to the National Hockey League.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I chased that dream for a few years.”

Early on, he would be gone from Thursday through Sunday most winter weekends, working both pro and Division I college games in various New England locations.

“That’s why I’m remarried,” he said.

Although he has worked three Frozen Fours (college hockey’s version of the men’s basketball Final Four) and one AHL All-Star Game, Andrews was never chosen to advance to the NHL.

“You just kind of figure it out on your own,” he said. “If there’s interest, you’ll see supervisors at your games. As interest fades, you don’t see anybody anymore. Especially up here, you rarely see supervisors.”

Still, Joe and Jen met through one of those Frozen Fours. She played club hockey at the University of Michigan and was the marketing director for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

“If he hadn’t been a referee, we wouldn’t have met,” she said. “I think I’m sadder about the retirement than he is, even though I’ll be happy to have him around more. It’s sort of the end of an era.”

Joining Andrews for his final game will be one of his best friends, Joe Ross, who lives in southern New Hampshire and makes his living as a customs agent at Logan International Airport in Boston. They went through USA Hockey officiating camps at the same time and worked many AHL and Hockey East games together.

“One thing I’ve admired about (Andrews) is that he always seems to have a great amount of rapport with the players and the coaches,” Ross said. “He’s one of these guys who won’t assert himself unless he needs to be asserted. He’s not, for lack of a better word, a showboat.”

Indeed, the goal of every official in every sport is – or ought to be – to blend into the background and let the game proceed without unnecessary interruption. When the Pirates are battling for their playoff lives Saturday night, not many in the stands will notice the broad-chested man in the black-and-white stripes with No. 32 on his sweater.

And that’s fine with Andrews. From now on, he’ll keep his nights free from grief.