Get Better Butchy

bruceMy First Post.

(Al Sterner’s Note: I wrote this article on 3/22, three days before my friend Butchy Mousseau passed away. It was full of hope, and I’m just gutted that it didn’t work out that way. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to leave it intact, even though things changed so much after it was posted.)

About a month ago, my Dawg Nation family asked if I’d like to start writing a blog post for this website. They said I could pretty much write whatever I wanted, as long as I kept things maybe a little cleaner than my old blog, which I totally understand. I happily agreed, and I swear to God the first person I thought of to feature was Butch Mousseau.

I contacted him about three weeks ago, and asked if he’d have some time to sit down, maybe have a beer, and talk about his experiences, not only as a college and NHL ref, but share some of his stories about the beer leagues, and dealing with us ankle benders. Butchy’s been a friend of Dawg Nation for a long time- I think he’s volunteered for every Dawg Bowl tournament we’ve ever had, so he said he’d love to. But in typical fashion, he said there had to be somebody better to feature, and suggested a couple of the refs Dawg Nation had helped over the years. I said thanks, but he was the one I really wanted for my first post.

He said he was pretty busy because of the college playoffs coming up, but we could get together in the next couple of weeks. I even saw his college referee partner Peter Friesma at our Comedy Works charity show last Wednesday night, and told him to let Butchy know I’d be contacting him soon.

Then Last Friday Night Happened.

I knew this was going to be a whole different story than I originally planned. Skating during warmups, like he had done a million times throughout his career, he caught an edge at the blue line, fell backwards, and slammed his head hard on the ice. He fractured his skull in three places, and is fighting for his life as I write this.

So instead of writing about his experiences, I’m going to tell you about just a few of my own with him. I think it will give you some kind of insight into just how special Butch Mousseau is. I have about a hundred stories, but I’ll try to narrow it down to several. I’ll write the original article I was planning when he feels better, because I know in my heart he’s going to pull through this thing and get back out on the ice.

I Met Butchy About 17 Years Ago.

When I started playing beer league hockey up in Lafayette. He would referee almost all our games, and it was easy to see by the way he skated and handled a game that he was way above our crappy level. I remember saying to him one night, “Butchy, you’re a college and pro referee. How the hell can you stand to do games at our level?” He just grinned and said. “Al, I love this stuff! You guys try just as hard as they do.” About two or three times a year, before the game when he would skate down to my end to check the net for holes, I would say, “Hey Butchy- try to keep up with us tonight, will you buddy?” He’d always laugh and say, “I’ll try Al! Let me know if I’m slowing down!”

One night during a game, after the whistle one of my defensemen started banging with a player on the other team, as we tend to do every once in a while. Butchy blew his whistle again, and yelled, “Okay, knock it off, both of you! I’m in a bad mood tonight- I’ll take you both off for a misconduct!” They skated away, and he looked over at me and winked. “Al, do you think they bought that?” I said, “Yeah, I think so. They don’t know you like I do- you’re never in a bad mood.” He laughed and said, “Don’t tell them that, okay?”

Respect.

We were in a championship game one time up in Lafayette, and the contest was really tight coming down to the final minute. We were up a goal when the other team took a shot that hit the crossbar, and then caromed over the glass and out of play. There were about 10 seconds left in the game.

Butchy skated up to me, and asked, “Al, did you touch that puck before it hit the crossbar?” If I did, the faceoff would be in our zone, giving the other team a lot better chance of getting the tying goal. If not, the faceoff would be in the neutral zone, and it would pretty much be game over.

He was telling me he respected my integrity enough to know I would tell him the truth, and he’d go with whatever I told him. No other referee would have ever asked me that question- they would have just made a call, good or bad. But it was important, and my friend wanted to make sure he got the call right. I didn’t hesitate for one second- “Yeah, I got a little piece of it with my arm.” He just smiled and said “Thanks, Al”, and whistled for the faceoff to my left. We ended up winning the game, but I’ll remember Butchy trusting me to do the right thing a lot longer than winning a championship.

My Mom.

There was another game where he was down at my end before the game checking the net, and he noticed me waving to a lady in the stands. He asked, “Al, who’s that?” I said, “Oh, that’s my mom. I started playing hockey as an adult, and she’s never seen me play before. I’m 48, and my mom is watching me play hockey for the first time. You believe that shit?”

He was genuinely touched by that. He waved to her, and made sure he introduced himself after the game. And almost every time after that, he’d ask about her, and always told his partner about Al’s mom seeing him play for the first time at 48 years old.

Class Act.

Okay, one more, and I’ll leave you guys alone. During a game at the Superior rink, I was just getting torched in the first period. I think I gave up three goals in the first ten minutes, and anyone that knows me can take a pretty good guess as to how well I was taking that. I don’t do many things well, but I can swear for about two minutes without repeating myself, and I brought out the full arsenal that night.

After Butchy fished the puck out of the net, he started to skate back to the center circle for the faceoff. But all of a sudden, he spun around, and started skating back towards me. I thought he was going to tell me to stop with the swearing already, but instead, he looked at me, and said, “Al, you have a strap loose on your helmet.”

I felt around, and said, “I don’t think so.” Then he reached up, and unsnapped one of the straps himself. He acted like he was adjusting it, reattached it and moved in real close to me.

“I just wanted to give you a second, buddy. Just take a deep breath and relax. It’s a game, Al- don’t forget how much fun this is. You’re all good.” He tapped me on top of the helmet, and skated back to center.

I didn’t give up another goal, and we ended up coming back to win the game. Boys and girls, if I live to be a hundred, I’ll never, ever forget what he did for me that night. He’s probably pulled the same loose strap trick with a ton of goalies over the years, and I hope they all appreciated it as much as I did. And I never got that angry for the rest of the years I played hockey.

My Mentor.

For the past five or six years, I’ve been a baseball umpire, working a little bit in adult leagues, but mostly with the teenage and high school kids. Now I don’t want to toot my horn too loudly, but I’m halfway decent at it, and I get assigned to the important contests, like tournament championship games.

And you know why? Because I have completely patterned my style after Butch Mousseau. I’m friendly, I’m calm, I learn all the coaches’ names, and I joke with the kids, but at the end of the day, they know I work hard at my job and call a good game. And they’re almost always glad to see me, which makes me feel great.

Butchy was my mentor, and he doesn’t even know it. I learned everything I needed to know by watching him work while I was standing in my goal crease all those years. I’m hoping maybe someday I can be half the official, and a quarter the human being he is.

And I don’t know much, but I do know this. Whatever supreme being is out there isn’t going to let this special man, who is beloved by so many people, go out this way. He’ll come back from this, because we need him here for a while longer.

25 thoughts on “Get Better Butchy”

    • Thank you to everyone at Dawg Nation! You have always included the Refs into your family. Today we lost
      one of the all time greatest person on and off the ice.
      Butch Mousseau! Words can’t describe how sad we are
      for you and your family. I will never understand how
      this could happen to the guy with the biggest heart,
      the biggest personality and smile. So many people loved you, Butch!!

      • Crazy thing is those stories are soooooooo true to what Butch stood for, and working with him just a few weeks earlier and as we unlace our skates late in the middle of the night, leaving a very cold rink, Butch asks me how my mom is doing and remembers her from her watching me line my first pro game ever!!! He met my mom once, and she for years always tells me to tell “the really nice referee, hello” !!!! Butch literally changed people in seconds!!

  1. “Skating during warmups, like he had done a million times throughout his career, he slipped, fell, and then went backwards and head first into the boards”

    great article,
    I was sitting in the first row 5 feet from entire unfortunate accident and watched the whole thing, Hockey will never be the same for me.

    He turned at the blue line and caught an edge which spun him around and layed him out flat backwards, when he hit the ice, his head bounced hard and I knew he was in trouble immediately. This was all about 5 feet from the boards.

    After this, the game and tournament became secondary to me. It is an image and event I will never be able to remove. Hockey has changed for me.

    Good luck and Get well Butchy, the entire Hockey family is Pulling for you.

    Bob

  2. Beautifully written and very much appreciated. Like you, Butch made an impact on our lives too…knowing him for 25 years, he’s been the same way everyday…and wish the world took on his carefree spirit and attitude. Bounce back Butch….bounce back.

  3. Nicely written – I have had all similar experiences with Butchy. He truly breaks the mold when it comes to being a ref, and for the better. I am a very low level hockey player, but it’s cool that Butch recognizes that I’m trying just as much as the next person. One time, I did a little move with the puck on the boards to dodge someone. It was nothing at all compared to most people’s skills, but he recognized that it was good _for me_ and said, “nice move!” just as if he had watched a GWG at the Olympics or something. Love you Butchy, get better soon.

  4. Good Stuff Al. I have also worked with and scheduled Butch when he was in the Detroit area and still working the various leagues before he moved to Colorado. He has and still does have an influence on all of the guys he has ever worked with. We all owe so much to the BIG MAN and what he has shared with us. God Bless and thoughts and prayers go out to Butch and Macaire and the whole family

  5. Butch,
    You’re alright in my book. Having loved a hockey player or two in my day. Anyone who loves the game would play it over again even knowing the consequences. May the hockey God shine down upon you and get you back to the game of life and the game of hockey. God bless your family as well.

  6. Great job Steiner…you really captured the heart for hockey that Butch brought to the rink for every game. Before, during, and after. I think I remember screening you on a couple of those Lafayette goals. Pat

  7. Al, That was a well written blog of a very good referee and a great guy. Very nice tribute. God please heal Butch.

  8. Great article and describes Butch so well!! Gotta love the guy as a person and a ref. I hope he’s back on the ice with us soon.

  9. Great tribute Al! I know that I was on the ice at the YMCA in Lafayette with you and Butch for most of these stories, great times! Dear god, higher power, or whatever force is out there please look after butch and get his health back, I beg you! Great man, kind soul, supreme human being. We need you!

  10. Great blog, Al. You have a wonderful way with words!!

    Butch is a class act all the way. I could pick him out of the ref crowd just by the way he skated. I’ve seen him skate in warmups at beer league games and DU games a ton of times. I can still visualize him pivoting backwards to forwards in his casual skating style.

    He reffed a number of our beer league games at Promenade but one stands out. There was a bit of a scrum (pile) in front of the net at the end of one play. People were acting like the bell had rung at a WWE event. Butch skates up and calmly says “the last one off this pile is getting a game misconduct”. That ended the melee. What a great line. Get well, Butch!!

  11. Beautiful blog post, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve only met Butch once, though my husband speaks of him often. Your post literally put into words how special this man is.

  12. Great job on the article, Al. All the best to Butch and his family. Hopeful for a positive update on this story very soon.

  13. Al – its been too long between posts, and then you blow us away like you’ve been building it up, maybe saving something for a more special time – like this.

    Butch has to be the coolest guy out there, but your thoughtful & personal stories about him really touched me. We forget how people are on the inside – and despite his imposing lumberjack frame, he’s kind to strangers & everyone’s friend. And a heck of a human being. Thanks for your post

    GC

  14. It isn’t just the hockey world that is diminished by this loss. Butch was such a good man and there just never seem to be enough of those around, and now we are down one. Hopefully, the memory and legacy will inspire us all to try and fill the gap just a bit. Thank you for a great article.

  15. My Husband Andy and I were season ticket holders to the DU Pioneers for years. We sat in Section 1 Row 5 and had the 2 seats where the visiting team and the game officials would enter and exit from. Butch always gave a puck to a young fan. We watched many games in person that Butch was an official on the ice. We never meet him, but we applauded them as a group when they left the ice after the game. The stories that we read from his friends were heart warming. He was the genuine article and we need more people like Butch in this world. We are both so saddened to hear of his passing. Our thoughts and Prayers go out to his wife Macaire, his children Sam (SJ), Abbie and Olivia, His Parents, His 2 Brothers, His 2 Sisters, His extended Family, His friends and all who loved him.

    Rest in Peace Oliver Butch Mousseau! You will be missed.

  16. If I showed up to play a game and Butch was the ref, I knew we were in for a great night of hockey. One night Butch played for the other team as they were short of players. I came in on him one on one and he effortlessly took the puck away. I said “man, you’re hard to get around.” He replied “I’ve been watching you for years. I know all your move.” Just a beer leaguer but Butch made me feel like it was the NHL. Total class act and a heart of gold.
    R.I.P. Butchy

  17. The hockey world has lost a great ref and the world has lost a great person. Butch touched many people and all of us are better for knowing him. You will be greatly missed.
    R.I P Butchy.

  18. We’ve lost a truly special person. As many of you have said, Butch always knew how to handle the situations on the ice. He also brought humor and respect to all the players. Butch once joined the handshake line at the Edge and had some funny things to say…always keeping it light! Whenever I got on the ice and saw that Butch was officiating, not only did it make me smile, I knew that I had to step up my mental game because of the integrity that he brought to the game. I remember fondly how he and his fellow linesman would give pre puck drop hand signals at the DU games…always ending with the “rabbit ears” above the helmet.
    I know that many are involved in donating to Butch’s family and I am continually amazed at our hockey community’s caring and generosity…keep up the great work Dawg Nation Foundation!

  19. Definitely a great, precise article about Butchy. Butch was a great friend and mentor to me. I became an official in 2002, I was an official at The IceCentre and wanted to referee or line at a higher level. In the early spring of 2003 I was most likely going to quit officiating because I didn’t think I could reach my goals and then I officiated one evening with Butch and he gave me a different outlook on everything. I tried to emulate Butch every night I laced them up from that night until the last game I officiated in 2011. I had the honor of working with Butch every Monday night at Superior in 2010-2011 and always looked forward to those nights on the ice with him. He was so humble and made it so much fun for everyone on the ice. I have nothing but great memories and we all lost a great man, friend, mentor. Kirk Langley

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