He has appeared in as many Stanley Cup final series as Wayne Gretzky — but he has never recorded a shot on goal. Considering his role in the game, that’s just fine with him.
Jay Sharrers grew up in Hope, where he learned to skate, play hockey and referee. Now in his twenty-first year as an NHL on-ice official, Sharrers has been selected as linesman for Games 2, 4 and 6… with the possibility of Game 7, if needed.
After Monday’s 8-1 mauling of the Canucks, local Bruins fans are hoping that Sharrers gets his full assignment, while Canuck fans are still planning a victory party for Game 5.
Sharrers was linesman in the Cup finals in 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007 and 2008 and he was talking to his brother Matt when he got the assignment for 2011.
“I was on the phone with Jay when the e-mail came in,” said Matt on Saturday, as he prepared to go to Game 2 in Vancouver. Jay had invited and Matt and their mother, Barb, to come watch him do his job.
“We’re about as close as brothers can be,” said Matt, a business coach with Sales Benchmark Index. “We have a pact that if he makes it to the finals, I’ll be there. I’ve been to every finals he’s done except one.”
On Friday, Jay said, “My first-ever Cup final selection will always be special but this one is very sweet. It’s been a couple of years since I was in the finals and as you get older there are very capable younger guys that you’re competing against — so this one felt pretty good.
“There are 38 refs and 33 linesmen in the NHL in the regular season and they start the playoffs with 20 refs and 20 linesmen in the first round,” explained Jay. “By the final round, they’re down to 4 refs and 4 linesmen.”
Sharrers turns 44 in July and says that physical fitness is a key to a long and successful career.
“In the last five or six years, the speed of the game has increased, so you have to keep up. It also benefits your longevity. Most of the hotels we stay at have decent gyms, and we get to know what each city offers.”
Like players, officials are expected to turn up in-shape for training camp.
“We have our training camp in Toronto,” said Jay, who is based out of Scottsdale Arizona. “They do our fitness testing and have class sessions.
“During the season, we’re working all over the place, so there isn’t a chance to get us all together for further training,” said Jay. “It’s all done via e-mail. The league sends out a rules quiz every week and they send video clips as well.”
The Hope Secondary grad of 1985 said he made the transition from player to rule-enforcer at age 15, when he realized the playing wasn’t likely to go anywhere.
“I didn’t have a plan to pursue reffing as a career at the time,” he said. “I just wanted to stay in the game.
“Then I went to a few officiating schools and got noticed by guys that hired for the BCJHL.”
By 1989, Jay was lining the Bronze Medal game at the World Juniors in Anchorage Alaska. His first NHL game was in Boston — of all places — on October 6, 1990.
Mom, who still lives in Hope said, “Jay literally pursued a dream. He told his father and me that he wanted to turn pro and make the NHL — and he did it.”
Dan Sharrers, a long-time swim coach and recreation director in Hope, passed away in 1995 but would have loved an invite to see his son wearing the stripes in the Cup final.
While Jay and all of his officiating team have to stay strictly neutral, there are no stipulations on who his family cheers for.
“There’s absolutely no question,” said Matt. “I’m a good B.C. boy and I’d love to see Vancouver win this year!”
After the Alex Burrows shocker, eleven seconds into the first-overtime period of game two, the Sharrer family had plenty to talk about:
“Amazing finish and a tough way to lose for the Bruins,” said Matt. “I’m sure about 3,000 people weren’t even back to their seats.”
“Last night’s OT was a quick one, which we surely don’t mind at all. Clean goal, no controversy. All good,” said Jay, who was headed for a charter flight to Boston on Sunday.
And the last words go to Barb, who attended her first-ever Cup final game.
“Oh my gracious!! That was an experience that I will never forget… the volume of the nonstop cheering in Rogers Arena; the originality of costumes; the crowd’s joy and the repeated mantra of “Manny, Manny” when Malholtra was on the ice. Then there was the tension and nerves as we headed into the third period.
“Boston was showing they had indeed come to play, and the crowd was slightly down. However, the goal to tie it up in the third period was unbelievable, and the crowd again was — if possible — even louder.
“We were sitting in Section 122, and behind Tim Thomas, so when Burrows scored in O/T it was right there in front of us! However, I could only see it on the JumboTron as the young men in front of me were on their feet so fast and totally screened my view!!! However, that doesn’t matter – what did matter is the total delight in a fantastic win.
“We sat in Roger’s Arena for some time, and let the crowds empty out. Outside the streets were remarkable; “high fives” as you slowly made your way, and cars caught in grid lock honking with joy. The police were admirable — not an easy job, but what I saw was calmness and a sense of humour in dealing with thousands of celebrating fans. It took us about an hour to walk from the arena to Robson and Thurlow, and it was such fun. Matt was laughing at his mother enjoying the experience of “high fiving” along with everyone else!
We met Jay and some of the other officials for late dinner, and that was a treat. I didn’t see Jay on Sunday a.m., as he and the others were flying to Boston on a very, very early flight out of Vancouver.
For a lasting impression I would say that probably one of the most significant things for me was standing and singing with Marc Donnelly ‘O Canada’, and being part of the Canadian experience — thinking to myself ‘I am about to witness the Vancouver Canucks play a game in the Stanley Cup finals, and this is a remarkable event’. The crowd is wonderful as they join in the singing, and I am also very proud that they do show absolute respect for the American anthem.
“I have to admit those opening events did bring tears to my eyes. I have been a hockey fan for so many years — and the game is such an integral part of our family — that one can’t help but be somewhat emotional, with pride in my son for what he has accomplished, and pride in a great hockey team.
“What an emotionally draining weekend, but what a treasured memory I now have.”