Todd Thomander and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have something in common, twenty-five years in the Maritimes.
After a quarter of a century, Todd is hanging them up. “To be honest, the time went by so fast,” confessed Thomander.
“I am very proud to have worked in the “Q” for so long, it’s a great league.”
The Halifax, Nova Scotia product will finish his QMJHL career on home ice at the Scotiabank Centre on March 15th.
Thomander will end his QMJHL officiating career with 689 games, a feat unmatched by any other Maritime QMJHL based official.
So what was his secret to longevity? “I have never lost my zest for the game.”
“Knock on wood, I have been lucky to avoid injuries over the years as well,” Thomander said.
Call it what you want, zest or passion, Thomander still loves sharing the ice with some of hockey’s brightest future stars.
The long time official is quick to credit his family for unwavering support over the years, which has clearly been a game changer. “It’s a huge sacrifice and you do miss a lot of events over the years. My wife Beth and children Lauren, Ben and Grant have always been very supportive, which allowed me to do this for so many years.”
Putting on the Bands
Thomander was doing the lines in high-level hockey when a chance encounter with a Refereeing Chief ultimately changed the path of career.
“It’s funny how things happen sometimes. I was calling a Midget game in the SEDMHA Tournament and the Refereeing Chief for Nova Scotia, Scott Aitken just happened to be there because his son was playing. Scott called me a few days later and said, ‘I want you refereeing higher level games and not lining,’”
As they say, the rest is history.
It takes courage, confidence and a special constitution to be willing to put on the bands for the first time and jump into the line of fire.
Referees are always the target, Thomander knew what he was getting into, it would be a different kind of pressure, but one he welcomed and embraced.
Like so many other young officials coming up through the ranks, Thomander had his share of mentors that were always willing to provide invaluable advice and support. (Photo Credit The Q News)
“When I started lining higher levels for Hockey Nova Scotia, we had some very good refs who I worked with and learned a lot from.”
Charlie Banfield, Francis Reppa, Dave Stone, Wade Bower all played a vital role in Thomander’s development, progression and growth as an official both on and off the ice. Thomander had paid his dues and put in his time officiating at every level across the province, so when the Halifax Mooseheads and the QMJHL arrived in the fall of 1994, there was no doubt he was high on the list of qualified officials capable of making the jump to major junior hockey.
The New League in Town
For Maritime hockey crazed fans there was a new league in town.
The QMJHL was an entirely new experience. Nevertheless, Thomander knew the lay of the land, but embraced the opportunity to work in the Canadian Hockey League and share the ice with many future National Hockey League officials.
“In the early years of the league I worked with guys like Mark Joannette, Stephane Auger and Eric Furlatt, who all went on to the NHL.”
“I always tried to watch them closely, on and off the ice, how they handled situations, and how they reacted and communicated.”
Thomander credits the league and the officiating directors over the years for their guidance and support and believes that has played a critical role in growing the professionalism and culture within the Q as well as developing future NHL officials.
The veteran referee has seen a lot of officials come and go, but isn’t surprised to see a strong Maritime contingent of officials at the NHL level.
Chris Lee, Gordie Dwyer, Matt MacPherson, Jon McIsaac, Ghislain Hebert, Jean Hebert and Jesse Marquis all got their start in the Maritimes.
The Evolution of the League and Two Decades of Memories
Todd Thomander has witnessed and experienced first hand the evolution of the QMJHL. “Without question the biggest change in the game is the speed and skill.”
“The game is so fast now. If you cannot skate and move the puck well, you will have a difficult time. It seems like everybody can really shoot the puck as well,” Thomander added.
From “donnybrooks” to video review, to rules changes, Thomander has seen it all. “Line brawls used to be a regular occurrence and every team had a couple of designated tough guys. Fighting was just a regular part of the game, basically every night,” said the soft-spoken official with a smile.
“The other thing that has changed is the technology. Video has become an integral part of the game and for the most part, that’s a positive thing.”
Thomander has over two decades of memories in the QMJHL, but a few games and players have definitely made a lasting impression.
“It’s crazy when you think about the number of high level NHLer’s that have come from the Q over the last number of years.”
“It’s pretty cool that I have had the opportunity to share the ice with Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Marc-Andre Fleury, there’s just so many.”
“I remember I refereed Nathan MacKinnon’s first exhibition game in Halifax. The speed that he had, especially his first three strides was something I had never seen before.”
Upon Further Review
When it comes to his time in the QMJHL Thomander’s presence and experience will be surely missed. (Photo Credit Saint John Sea Dogs)
“Todd was always looking to be better each game,” said Larry “Magic” Christian.
“His experience, knowledge of the rules speaks volumes at the QMJHL level, and he always knew how to apply those aspects of the game, he always had good rapport with players and coaches,” Christian added.
Thomander embraced his role as a mentor throughout his time in the QMJHL.
“I would like to think that I have contributed to many younger officials over the years. I talk a lot during games and we as officials have long talks about games and situations on our drives to and from the rinks,” explained Thomander.
“Todd has been a great ambassador for the game and a huge mentor for young officials in the Nova Scotia area,” said long-time QMJHL linesman Jay Doiron.
“The “Q” is losing a wealth of experience with Todd’s retirement. He was always calming influence on the ice and had the respect of coaches and players throughout his distinguished twenty-five year career,” said Doiron, who recently surpassed the 500 game mark himself.
“I’ve travelled many miles with him throughout his career, it was always a pleasure, and he will be thoroughly missed with the hockey officiating community,” Doiron added.
“I will miss being on the ice for QMJHL games. After twenty-five years it’s still exciting to be out there and to officiate that level of hockey.”
“I will definitely miss working with some of the guys that I have known for many years and the laughs we have on long drives to and from games. Some of my best friends are other officials because we have spent so much time together and we are each other’s sounding boards,” explained Thomander.
“I’m also going to miss the people that you get to know at every rink. The trainers, timekeepers, off ice officials, radio and TV people, it’s amazing how many people you meet over the years.”
So what does the future hold for one of the longest serving QMJHL officials?
“I am not ready to be done refereeing all hockey quite yet, I’m planning on refereeing some games in the Maritime Hockey League and AUS next season,” confessed Thomander, who has also taken over as Refereeing Chief in his local hockey association in Sackville, Nova Scotia.
Giving back to the game he loves and mentoring, has been a common theme throughout Thomander’s career. “I’ve spent a lot of time supervising minor hockey games this year.”
“My son, Ben who also has a passion for officiating is eighteen and has been refereeing for six years. I watch him ref whenever I can and try to help him with my experience, he always wants to talk about his games and things that happened.”
From countless rinks across, Nova Scotia and the Maritimes to the QMJHL, Todd Thomander’s passion and dedication for officiating and the game of hockey is unparalleled.
One last home game.
Twenty-five years of memories.
The final count and stat line will read 689.
His impact on the refereeing community and the QMJHL, immeasurable.
As the Halifax Mooseheads Public Address Announcer, it was a pleasure working with Todd, thanks for being a role model for the upcoming officials like my son Drake.
Congrats on a great career Todd from Hot Country 1035!