SIOUX CITY | A penalty doesn't just put the pressure on the offense and defense in a hockey power play, it pressures the timekeeper, too.
So it goes for Larry Dicks, 58, a Sioux Cityan who serves as the off-ice official for the Sioux City Musketeers. The team hosts the Sioux Falls Stampede in a United States Hockey League first-round playoff game at 7:05 p.m. today at the Tyson Events Center.
"If you get a guy in the penalty box, time goes on the scoreboard," says Dicks, who monitors those essential minutes and seconds that often help determine the final outcome. "We keep track of the time someone is in and what penalty they're in for. When it's time for them to get out, we let them out."
Although Dicks has been part of the Musketeers off-ice action for 24 years, hockey wasn't a part of his upbringing. There was no organized hockey in Sioux City when he was growing up.
"I didn't like hockey at first, because we didn't have it here," Dicks says. "I had no exposure to it."
That changed in 1976 when Dicks attended his first Musketeers game. He was hooked pretty quickly and started making Saturday afternoon appointments to watch KTIV, as the NBC affiliate at that time carried the National Hockey League "Game of the Week."
Dicks, a production worker at Wilson Trailer Co. since 1979, was standing on the stage at the old Municipal Auditorium during a Musketeers game in 1991 when a radio announcer tapped him on the shoulder.
"He just asked me if I wanted to help by being an off-ice official," Dicks remembers.
The answer was, "Yes." It's been "yes" ever since.
"I've done goal judging (making sure the goal is good), shots-on-goal, plus/minus, and I've been in charge of the people who run the clock," he says.
Those roles allow Dicks some access to these future NHL participants and keeps his hands on the sport he's come to love. Even when a couple of opposing players second-guessed his clockwork during a stay in the penalty box, Dicks was able to skate through it.
"I've had to settle some guys down, but, for the most part, I've gotten along with all the opposing teams' kids," he says.
Dicks and his wife, Melanie Dicks, have also enjoyed close relationships with the home team's players, having served as housing parents for various Musketeers over a 16-year period.
And while he's enjoyed every bit of his USHL involvement, Dicks says this will be his last season as an off-ice official. After nearly a quarter-century of playing an official role at these games, Dicks is ready to either put his feet up, or stand up. As in stand up and holler.
"Being an off-ice official here has been an awesome experience," he says. "But I just want to go back to being a fan again. I haven't been able to root for Sioux city since 1991. It's time for something different."