I never had the opportunity to meet Oliver ‘Butch’ Mousseaux. But I had definitely heard of him long before his name tragically made the news last week.Last Friday, March 18th, Butch was a linesman on the officiating crew set to call the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff game between Ferris State and Michigan Tech in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As the officials were on the ice monitoring the pre-game warmup for each team, a freak accident occurred. Apparently Mousseaux was skating backwards, with his hands in his pockets, as I would imagine he had done countless times before. His skate caught a rut in the ice, and Mousseaux fell backwards, unable to break his fall as the back of his head slammed into the ice. Mousseaux was placed in a medically-induced coma as the head trauma caused swelling in his brain. One week later, word came that Mousseaux was unable to survive his injury. Butch Mousseaux was pronounced dead at age 48.
I have been a USA Hockey registered official for the past 15 years. That really means nothing beyond the fact that I’ve been at it for a decade-and-a-half now. I have found officiating to be much like many other things in life that I have a passion for. When I find something I enjoy, I pretty much immerse myself into learning as much as I can about it. I have found YouTube to be a helpful resource to that end. I have searched countless times for video clips that focus on hockey officiating. This video is from the 2009 Colorado Eagles, which at that time was an American Hockey League team. At the :15 mark of the clip, a subtle but telling indication of the way Butch is perceived becomes clear. As the studio host is setting up the clip, his co-host can’t help himself from interjecting a comment of “Butchy!” while the host introduces Mousseaux. This video is precisely how I came to know of Butch Mousseaux:
One of the biggest issues facing referees is that we are rarely ‘humanized.’ We are often perceived as the nameless, faceless idiot, moron, or (fill in the blank with your favorite insult) who is out to put the screws to your favorite team. Among my favorite take-aways from the above clip is how Butch made himself visible as a real person who truly loves the game. Evidence that Butch was doing his job, and that it wasn’t personal, can be seen at the :59 second mark when Mousseaux ejects a center from the face-off when he prematurely moves his stick in trying to win the draw. “Gotta go, sorry bro…”
1:40 into the video, Mousseaux is seen grabbing a quick drink with the referee during a timeout. Mousseaux gives the water bottle a couple of squirts at the referee’s errr, lower abdominal region. “Ya look like ya peed your pants.” This kind of levity serves to break the tension of the officiating crew during a high-intensity game. These kinds of moments help officials clear their heads momentarily, and mentally re-focus as play is getting set to resume.
My favorite part of this clip happens at the end, as the officials are leaving the ice for the sanctity of their dressing room. Someone is overheard to say, “Thank goodness it’s over.” Butch’s response perfectly encapsulates his persona and attitude: “Are you kiddin’ me? That was awesome!”
As I first heard of Butch Mousseaux’s tragic passing on Friday, the news hit me hard. The hockey world, especially the officiating community- is a very tightly knit brotherhood. One of the best take-aways I have from reffing is the privilege of getting to know so many good people through the game of hockey. When one of us goes down, we all feel it. Though I never had the privilege to meet Butch Mousseaux, I feel it is incumbent upon me to keep his love of the game alive through actions, words, and deeds. As the Tweets came out after learning of Butch’s untimely passing, it became crystal clear that Butch Mousseaux will be missed as much, if not more, for his larger-than-life personality as he will his outstanding officiating ability.
Butch Mousseaux is survived by his wife, Macaire, and three children. A GoFundMe page has been set up in his name and can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/3yv235ng
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