Tarrington Wyonzek, grandson of Henry and Anne Wyonzek of Canora and Victor and Vickie Puchala of Yorkton (formerly of Rhein), and son of Pat and Karen Wyonzek, has made another important move toward his goal of being an NHL on-ice official.
Wyonzek recently signed a contract to work as a full-time linesman for the AHL (American Hockey League) and the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League). He will be based out of Greenville South Carolina, the home of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.
“I kept it quiet until everything was official, but everyone in my family was excited for me when they found out,” said Wyonzek. “My uncle Geoff Wyonzek and his wife Emily, who live in Memphis, Tennessee, have been a big help with all the paperwork and getting the banking in order for my move to the U.S.”
He said this latest promotion puts him in a similar position as ECHL and AHL players, within reach of a job in the NHL.
“Jordan Binnington was the goalie for the St. Louis Blues of the NHL for their Stanley Cup victory this past season,” said Wyonzek. “He started the season playing in the ECHL, moved up to the AHL due to injuries and then to the NHL because of injuries on the Blues. So it can happen pretty quick.”
Wyonzek believes his well-rounded résumé was a contributing factor in being chosen for his new position.
“I have experience in many different on-ice situations,” he explained. “I’ve worked a lot of important games and done pretty well in keeping my composure no matter what the situation. I believe I do well under pressure when the adrenaline starts pumping.”
For the past six seasons, Wyonzek worked as a linesman in the WHL (Western Hockey League), one of the top-ranked junior leagues in the world. For the last two of those seasons, he also worked as a part-time linesman in the AHL for games in western Canada while living in Regina.
In recent years he has also worked a number of high level tournaments.
Wyonzek spoke with Canora Courier last week, after completing his duties as a linesman at the Traverse City, Michigan NHL Prospect Tournament from September 6 to 10.
“I worked four games at the tournament, which involved the top prospects from eight NHL teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues,” said Wyonzek. “These players are trying to prove they belong in the NHL for the upcoming season, so the action is pretty intense.”
He has worked the last two Memorial Cup tournaments, a tournament for major junior players involving teams from the WHL, OHL (Ontario Hockey League) and QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).
“The Memorial Cup is an incredible experience. The 2018 tournament was unique because it was in Regina where I was living at the time, so I had many friends there,” recalled Wyonzek. “This year’s tournament was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is a hockey-crazy city. Every game was sold out, even if the host team, the Halifax Mooseheads, wasn’t playing.
“I had the privilege of working the final game. It was as intense as any game gets, even though the Mooseheads lost to Rouyn-Noranda of the QJMHL.”
The WHL representative at the 2019 Memorial Cup was the Prince Albert Raiders, which was involved in another memorable game on Wyonzek’s résumé. He worked the seventh and deciding game of the WHL final for the right to go to the Memorial Cup, as the Raiders hosted the Vancouver Giants.
“I’ve worked a few game 7’s but this was one of the coolest, most exciting games I’ve ever worked,” said Wyonzek. “The rink was crazy all night and the home team won in overtime, so they all went even crazier.”
Earlier in the year he achieved another important milestone in his career when he was recruited for his first ever IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) event. He worked as a linesman in the World Under-18 tournament in Sweden from April 18 to 28.
“I had a good tournament and was chosen for the gold medal game between Russia and the host team from Sweden. The rink was sold out and the atmosphere was rockin,’ with Sweden coming out on top, 4 to 3 in overtime.”
Wyonzek said the caliber of hockey in all of his recent tournament and playoff experience was fairly similar, with lots of speed and intensity.
“The main difference was that in the Traverse City NHL Prospects tournament I was dealing with men, usually from 22 to 25 years old,” he said. “The junior tournaments mostly involve players 20 years old and younger. It’s a good reminder for me that I need to be in top physical shape at all times.”
Wyonzek’s younger brother Tannum is beginning his fourth season as a linesman in the WHL, and recently had the privilege of working the home opener of the Regina Pats for the new season. He is following in his big brother’s footsteps, with the same goal of eventually working in the NHL. He has occasionally worked at some of the same events, including the World U-17 tournament.
“I keep reminding him that I was a year younger than he was when he worked at the World U-17,” said Tannum in an earlier interview.
The Wyonzek brothers grew up in Yorkton, but spent quite a bit of time in Canora as well.
Since the family owns a cabin at Crystal Lake, the boys used to spend summers there. Tannum and Tarrington worked at the Canora Golf Course during the summers until they decided to focus more intently on their officiating careers.
Each played minor hockey, and Tarrington had the memorable experience of playing for the Canora midget team which won a provincial championship.
But the Wyonzek brothers each eventually decided they likely weren’t going to make it as professional hockey players. They chose to focus on becoming on-ice officials to stay involved in the game and increase their chances of having careers in the NHL. Those dreams appear to be getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.
Tarrington’s first ECHL game of the new season will be on October 11 in Norfolk, Virginia when the Admirals play host to the visiting Florida Everglades.