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WCHA ref Mosseau dies following on-ice incident

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Longtime college hockey referee Oliver "Butch" Mousseau, who suffered a head injury at the WCHA Final Five last weekend in Grand Rapids, Mich., has died, WCHA officials confirmed Friday in a news release.

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Longtime college hockey referee Oliver "Butch" Mousseau, who suffered a head injury at the WCHA Final Five last weekend in Grand Rapids, Mich., has died, WCHA officials confirmed Friday in a news release.

Mousseau, 48, sustained his injury March 18 during warmups before the Ferris State-Michigan Tech semifinal game.

Members of the college hockey community were stunned at the news, including Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore.

"You're at a loss for words. I'm still numb," Serratore said Friday afternoon. "I think everybody is. It's hard to believe that it happened and he's gone."

The Grand Rapids Press reported last week that Mousseau, who officiated games in both the WCHA and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, was skating up to the other linesmen when he fell on the ice near the end of warmups. He was reportedly not wearing a helmet. He taken off the ice by stretcher and taken to the hospital. He was later placed in a medically induced coma.

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Mousseau, a Colorado resident, was universally liked by coaches and players alike, Serratore said.

"Butch had an unbelievable rapport with the coaches, with the players," he said. "He was so respected by his peers. He was a special guy. He always said the right things. He respected everything you had to say as a coach, he respected the players, and the respect went both ways. It's a tragic loss for the hockey community."

Mousseau was a full-time WCHA referee for 16 seasons, starting in 2003, and officiated games in the NCHC on a part-time basis since the league started in 2013. He also worked for USA Hockey and in pro leagues for the ECHL, AHL and CHL.

"At the end of the day, hockey is just a game. It is a special game because of the people involved, and Butch was one of the all-time greats who left an indelibly positive impact upon everyone whom he came in contact with," WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said in a press release. "The WCHA is, and always will be, a better league because of Butch's involvement."

In the statement, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton and WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepard also expressed their condolences--part of an outpouring of sympathy for Mousseau and his family from around the college hockey world.

Former BSU defenseman Matt Carlson said there was a reason why Mousseau was so well-liked by the players on the ice.

"In today's college hockey, players don't get as involved with talking to the refs," he said. "But the thing about Butch, he was the one guy who, no matter what, could strike up a conversation with. That's pretty crucial for a ref to do.

"Some refs just kinda blow you off and tell you to skate to your bench. But he'd answer anybody if you had a question about something. You didn't have to be a captain to go up and talk to him. He respected everybody."

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Current BSU forward Brendan Harms echoed Carlson's thoughts, noting his sense of humor.

"Always had a smile on and a joke no matter what the circumstances," he said. "He was just a great guy and so easy to talk to. Going to miss him."

Steps are already being taken to ensure the safety of on-ice officials in the future.

Although the NCHC already requires referees and linesmen wear helmets during pregame warmups, the WCHA does not.

However, Greg Shepherd, the league's supervisor of officials, told the Grand Rapids Press last week following the incident that he expected that to change.

"I've been in the WCHA for 39 years (and 23rd year as supervisor of officials) and I have never, ever had this happen--ever," Shepherd told the newspaper. "You're out there skating around keeping an eye on the teams and it was just a freak accident. But from now on, everyone will wear helmets. Period."

As of the NCAA regional games Friday afternoon, the rule was already in effect.

Mousseau is survived by his wife, Macaire, their three children Sam (SJ), Abbie and Olivia; his parents and four siblings (two brothers and two sisters). Funeral arrangements are pending.

Related Topics: COLLEGE HOCKEY
Jack is a copy editor for Forum News Service.
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