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Wyonzek experiences milestone in on-ice officiating career

Friends and family in the Canora area closely followed Tarrington Wyonzek's work as a linesman in the recent World Hockey Championship.
Tarrington Wyonzek, who has ties to Canora, dropped the puck during a quarterfinal game between the U.S.A. and Czechia (Czech Republic) at the recent World Hockey Championships in Latvia and Finland.

CANORA - Ever since he shifted his focus from playing hockey to working as an on-ice official, Tarrington Wyonzek’s career has continued to blossom and trend upwards. For the first time, Wyonzek worked at the recent World Hockey Championship, held from May 12 to May 28 in Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia.

Wyonzek, who now lives in Regina, is the 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.

“It was incredible,” said Wyonzek. “Being on the ice with all those professional players, it’s something I’ve never experienced at that level.”

Both rinks where games were played during the event can hold around 10,000 to 12,000 fans. Wyonzek said he served as linesman in nine games, including a quarterfinal game between the U.S.A. and Czechia (Czech Republic), and the bronze medal game, where Latvia won its first ever medal with an upset win over the Americans.

“The bronze medal game was in Finland and was sold out, it was an incredible atmosphere,” said Wyonzek. “There were 10 extra flights from Latvia to Finland for that game, and they were all sold out. The next day, Latvia declared a national holiday and there were about 100,000 people together celebrating in Riga.”

Wyonzek said the European fans created an exciting atmosphere for most games throughout the world championships.

“Especially for games involving larger countries and the host countries such as Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Latvia; lots of fans come to the games. They’re always chanting for their country, banging on drums, making lots of noise.”

Being his first experience at world championships, Wyonzek said he was impressed with the caliber of the hockey.

“It was the best skill level of hockey I ever worked at. Just about all the teams had a number of NHL players as well as players from pro leagues in Europe.”

Regardless of who is playing on the ice, Wyonzek said he always tries to focus on doing his best, controlling his emotions, and staying composed. He finds that having a decade of experience as an on-ice official is a big help.

“I remember my first overseas tournament in 2019, I was really nervous. Now I find I can control my emotions better, plus I have more confidence in my abilities. Even in games when the crowd is really loud, I don’t notice it that much. I hear it, but it’s just background noise.”

Since he worked games in both Latvia and Finland, Wyonzek got a good sense of the personalities of the two host cities.

“Tampere, Finland in general, is very modern with newer architecture,” he said. “Riga has older and more traditional architecture, it’s very rich in culture.”

Wyonzek said he definitely felt the support from home, with many relatives and friends in Canora and Yorkton watching and messaging him, as well as from his fiancé Kelsey, who happens to be a dentist.

“She had the games on TV at work so she and everyone else could watch.”

Now that he has returned to Regina, Wyonzek will get back to his fulltime job during the day, plus evenings working hockey games in the SJHL (referee), WHL (linesman) and AHL (linesman).

Even though they grew up in Yorkton, Tarrington and his younger brother Tannum spent quite a bit of time in Canora as well. Before making the decision to focus on their officiating careers, both worked at the Canora Golf Course during the summers.

Each played minor hockey, and Tarrington had the memorable experience of playing for the provincial champion Canora midget team.

But the Wyonzek brothers each eventually decided they likely weren’t going to make it as professional hockey players, and chose to focus on becoming on-ice officials to stay involved in the game.

Looking to the future, Tarrington said he’d love to work another world championship, and be chosen for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.