ST. CATHARINES, ONT. - Did you hear the one about a Niagara IceDogs game, a London Knights' jersey and a Zamboni driver?
The city worker wore the jersey while driving the Zamboni between the first and second periods of an Niagara IceDogs/London Knights game at Jack Gatecliff Arena last month.
IceDog owner Bill Burke was not amused.
Apparently, he wasn’t the only one.
A St. Catharines resident expressed his displeasure in an e-mail to Mayor Brian McMullan and the rest of city council on Feb. 18, the day after the game.
“There needs to be consequences to the employees who act out in ways that not only embarrass our local teams, but disrespect our city and the job the rest of the hard-working staff do,” wrote the e-mailer.
Deputy Mayor Peter Secord was quick to respond, informing the resident by e-mail that he was at the game and “confronted” the employee prior to the second intermission.
Recreation and community services director Rick Lane was then contacted by phone, and the employee was instructed to ditch the jersey.
“We have a policy that he didn’t follow and he will be dealt with. This won’t happen again,” wrote Secord in an e-mail circulated to all councillors.
“Whatever you were feeling last night was pale in comparison to my internal rage.”
Sheesh, where were the Cogeco TV cameras when you needed them?
Anyway, Coun. Matt Harris e-mailed back that he hoped this was an issue of proper work attire.
“If this is the case, I would expect the same ‘outrage’ if the Zamboni driver were to wear an IceDogs jersey,” Harris wrote.
Then Coun. Len Stack weighed in, praising Harris for his “very mature and professional response.”
Wait a minute. Harris described as very mature and professional? Yowzers!
Stack went on to say he was at the game that Sunday afternoon and didn’t notice the incident.
“I did notice that the IceDogs lost again and maybe that’s why some fans are upset.”
Hmm, are we sure it wasn’t Stack wearing that Knights jersey?
Stack then advised everyone to remain calm and deal with the situation appropriately.
“Above all, let’s not overreact.”
In fact, I should never have written this column. But, since I’ve already started …
Lane said the city has a dress code for arena employees in the form of “municipally supplied clothing.”
“The employee was not in the appropriate clothing. So, that was dealt with,” said Lane, explaining he wasn’t at liberty to provide more details about the personnel matter.
And the reason given for the odd sweater choice?
“He thought he was stimulating the crowd,” said Lane. “Bad choice, right?”
I don’t know. Sounds like he could have a second career as a professional wrestler.
But Secord told me he received another explanation from the driver.
The St. George’s Ward councillor said he didn’t actually see the infamous Zamboni ride, either, because he was out getting a refreshment. When he got back to his seat, IceDog owner Burke mentioned it to him, as did several other spectators.
So, he decided to check things out before the second intermission. Sure enough, the driver had the Knights’ jersey on again.
Secord said he “respectfully asked” him to remove it to comply with the city’s dress policy. The employee was “reluctant” to do so. At that point, Secord decided to call Lane.
Anyway, the guy told Secord he was wearing the jersey because he was a London Knights fan. And it really wasn’t a London jersey. It was the same emblem, but it was the sweater of a local minor hockey team.
Three weeks later, Secord remains perplexed by the employee’s action.
Can you imagine going to a Sabres-Toronto game in Buffalo and the Zamboni driver wearing a Leafs’ sweater, he asked.
But then, I don’t understand why anyone would want to wear a Leafs sweater at any time.