Being a linesman in the National Hockey League can be hazardous to your health. Injuries can come in sundry ways. Wayward sticks and pucks, breaking up fights and being slammed by careening players are a few of the more common causes of injury.
Despite the hazards, Gordon Broeseker has been an NHL linesman for 19 years and had missed only five games before this season. "I missed one game with stitches and the rest because of illness," he said.
Six weeks ago, Broeseker tore the cartilage in his left knee and has been out action for the first prolonged stretch of his career. He will return tomorrow at the Capital Centre when the Washington Capitals play the New York Islanders at 1:35 p.m.
"The odd thing about this injury is that I didn't even know I hurt it," said Broeseker. "I didn't feel anything snap or have any pain."
Broeseker, a native of Baltimore and graduate of Northern High School, was skating during a game Nov. 15 at the Capital Centre. His left knee kept getting weaker and weaker. The next night in New Jersey, the knee was no better, and "I went to see an orthopedic surgeon. He told me I had tendinitis. Like a dummy, I skated again the next night in Philadelphia and the knee was killing me. I went to another orthopedic man and he said I had a torn cartilage.
"The Friday after Thanksgiving, I had the knee 'scoped [surgery performed by arthroscope], and the next Monday I started therapy. I've been skating for the past couple of weeks and I'm ready to go back to work."
Broeseker, whose father, Joe Broeseker, was a linesman in the American Hockey League for 10 years, began his hockey career in the AHL and moved to the NHL his second year.
His career as a hockey linesman started in a strange way. "I had just finished up my baseball season in 1970 and I was playing golf every chance I got," he said. "My father told me that the AHL was conducting a camp for prospective linesmen in Hershey and that I should go there and try out. I told him I wasn't interested. He told me I ought to reconsider because the AHL was holding a golf tournament in conjunction with the tryouts. The mention of golf and I was hooked. I went to Hershey, tried out and the rest is history."
A baseball player in his teen-age days in northeast Baltimore, Broeseker signed with the Washington Senators as a catcher out of high school and spent five years in the Washington-Texas Rangers chain, getting as high as Class AAA Denver in the American Association before calling it quits.
"It was a mutual parting of the ways," Broeseker said. "Texas said they'd call me and I said no, I'll call you. I had a strong arm and was a good hitter, but I saw the writing on the wall, so to speak."
Broeseker said being out of action for six weeks has been tough.
"I'm used to working about four games a week and traveling all the time. The good thing about the injury is that I got to spend a lot of time with my family, especially over the Christmas holidays, something that hasn't happened in 20 years. The NHL has been good to me, letting me be a supervisor of officials in the East Coast League and the AHL. But I'm an antsy guy and I'll be glad to get back in action."
Broeseker, 40, says he hasn't thought about what he'll do when his linesman's career is over.
"I've always said there is life after hockey and I'll just have to see what presents itself," he said. "Right now I'm very happy doing what I'm doing and want to continue working for quite a while."
Reversal of fortune: The Washington Capitals and their top minor-league affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks, had their longest winless spells of the season broken on Sunday.
The Capitals defeated the New Jersey Devils, 4-3, to end an 0-3 skid. The Skipjacks, who play the St. John's Maple Leafs at the Baltimore Arena tomorrow at 5:05 p.m., broke a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) by beating the Rochester Americans, 3-1.
Neither team fell out of first place in its division. The Capitals continue to the lead the NHL Patrick Division by two points over the New York Rangers, and the Skipjacks lead the Southern Division of the AHL by a point over second-place Hershey Bears.