7000 games - and counting
Given a baseline estimate of an hour per game and the average pace of five kilometres per hour, Langton Minor Hockey scorekeeper Roger Demeester could have walked the 7,358-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between St. John’s Newfoundland and Vancouver, B.C. four times – and would already have reached Regina on his fifth leg.
Based on a contemporary minimum wage of $10.25 an hour he could alternatively have grossed well in excess of $70,000.
And Demeester has volunteered enough time to watch each and every one of the 541 episodes of The Simpsons televised as of January 26, 2014, 25 times – with ample time to spare for 25 viewings of The Simpsons Movie.
Instead, Demeester stepped into the Langton Arena’s timekeepers’ booth for the first time in 1971, unknowingly kicking off a ‘Lou Gehringian’ iron man scorekeeping streak of epic proportions that reached 7,000 games Sunday, January 26 during a Langton novice rep victory over visiting St. George.
“Just for the hell of it, I kept track of it,” said Demeester, an inveterate keeper of records, who for example, also has his farm data from 1960, and rainfall amounts from 1950. “It’s just fun, fun to keep track of.”
A director on the inaugural Langton Minor Hockey executive in 1971, Demeester was elected president for five years, “and just about every job there, I took on at one time or another.”
He retains a soft spot in his heart for young referees, based in part on a 15-year stint as LMH’s referee in chief.
“I admire the courage they have to go out there and do that,” said Demeester. “Putting their judgment and themselves on the line to do a job that isn’t always appreciated.”
But he is best known as the organization’s scorekeeping elder statesman, his voice eminently-recognizable throughout the arena while announcing both penalties and goals.
“We’ve always done that,” said Demeester, an extra touch appreciated in particular by the younger players. “The really little guys go nuts when they hear their names announced.”
Ironically, Demeester regarded another early scorekeeper with a mixture of shock and awe as he tried to keep warm in a snowmobile suit while ducking pucks and sticks in the glassless bench of the early years.
“I thought that guy was crazy,” Demeester laughed. “It was really interesting at times, trying to stay out of physical abuse,” he recalled, contrasting today’s contained and well-heated booth favourably by comparison. “The best seat in the house, and you’re kind of gratified to know you’re helping the kids out.”
A lot of people didn’t want to timekeep, Demeester continued, and it became a familiar niche through which he could contribute. Busy on the farm in the summer, Demeester kept himself busy and focussed his energies on minor hockey in the winter, rather than spreading his time around in other organizations or hobbies. He has been joined in the scorekeepers’ booth over the past two or three decades by a trio of committed regulars: Lynn DeCoene, Ryan Conklin and nephew Brian Demeester, who have all contributed significantly, credits Roger, just not kept records.
“They’ve probably been there for 20 or 25 years.”
LMH policy has leaned toward the experience of adult timekeepers through the years, but Demeester is also pleased to welcome a couple of ‘kids’ aboard more recently. “They like doing it and I like teaching them.”
Few, if any are likely to match Roger Demeester’s 43 years of service as an active member of LMH, or a timekeeper. He was there as his own son Danny progressed through minor hockey, and then his grandson Kyle. But in a way, Roger engaged with all the kids he got to see regularly from the scorekeeping booth. Some of those ‘kids’ are in their 50s today, laughed Demeester, whose timekeeping has spanned their kids and in some cases, grandkids too.
“The parents used to be in the penalty box, now their kids are.”
Langton Minor Hockey hosted a major and appreciated celebration when Demeester reached 4,000 games, and he received an OMHA Honour Award in 1999, but has been happy to quietly ‘cruise on through’ milestones of 5,000 and 6,000 games.
Inclement weather pushed number 7,000 back from an scheduled atom house league encounter that would have been fitting on a level, given Demeester’s appreciation of all levels of hockey.
“In a pinch, I sort of root for the house league kids,” he said, noting there would be no rep hockey without house league. “I like that starting point for kids where hopefully they get on the right track.”
Demeester does like kids to succeed at sports, but cautions if parents’ definition of success is professional career, the odds aren’t on their side.
“There’s a really good chance they’re not going to make it,” he understated gently.
“There can be too much emphasis on being a star. People don’t always let their kids have as much fun as they could have.”
Instead, his definition of a ‘winner’ is summed up by that word over a picture of a young player that hangs in the Langton Arena, completed with the following caption: ‘I’m not a great hockey player, but I’m a good kid.’
“If a kid has fun, makes friends and comes out of this after minor hockey being a good kid, that’s a winner. Hockey can help with life skills, if you’re a great player, that’s a bonus, if you’re not, you can still be a winner.”
Demeester used to timekeep roughly 200 games a year when Langton Minor Hockey had 400 kids, currently, with around 150, he does “maybe 125.”
Given there are simply less games, 8,000 might never come, says Demeester, accepting that fact happily enough.
“Like I say, I’m not trying to reach a goal, just enjoying it and counting it as I go.
“I’ve had a lot of satisfaction out of helping an organization helping kids. It just kind of makes you feel like you’re doing something for somebody.”
And given the fact the 75-year-old is in good health and continues to enjoy contributing, he’s not planning on hanging up his scorekeeping pen any time soon.
“As far as I know I’m still doing it right,” he concluded. “Might as well keep on going at it.”