Komets’ Finemaster has important, though sometimes fun, job

Komets forward Garrett Thompson has served the team's Finemaster throughout the season. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

Hockey players like to party with their teammates, and somehow those festivities have to get paid for. That’s where the Finemaster comes in.

It’s an honored position on a hockey team because that player enforces the rules and then collects the fine money which gets spent on things like annual Halloween, Super Bowl, rookie and season-ending parties or other necessary items. The Komets recently used the money to buy a speaker for the bus on road trips.

The position requires honesty, integrity and the ability to instill fear so teammates pay up. Either that or an irritating, annoying persistence that aggravates everyone to quickly pull out their wallets — which is why Mike Embach was so good at it last year.

This year, Garrett Thompson and Cody Sol are sort of sharing the duties. The captain council of Jamie Schaafsma, Shawn Szydlowski and Sol announce the fines, Sol collects as the sergeant at arms and Thompson keeps track of the money as the official Finemaster.

“He’s great because you can’t say no to the guy,” Szydlowski said of Thompson. “He’s too nice. You need someone you can trust with the money, and you know it’s going to be there with G.”

But that’s no fun! There must be some more sinister reason. Maybe these guys are just afraid of being critical because that could be a fine.

“He’s organized, he’s honest and reliable and he’s got a sidekick who is 6-5 who enforces things when you don’t pay up,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said.

Recent Finemasters have included Embach, Kaleigh Schrock, Nick Boucher and Kevin St. Pierre. Bruce Richardson came up with the original list of rules. Sometimes, the Finemaster applies for the position by having previously broken all the rules.

Usually, the Finemaster is in charge of keeping discipline among his teammates in the locker room, on the bus, in public and sometimes on the ice. Essentially, the rules help players maintain professionalism, to respect their sweater, the locker room and each other. Maintaining order is important, but it’s done with a sense of humor.

As an example, defenseman Ryan Culkin piped up that he was recently fined $100 for being too good looking. Not really, but that’s one fine a player wouldn’t mind paying.

Okay, moving on.

As Class AA minor league players, they don’t make a ton of money so a fine can hurt sometimes. Most fines are $10, but some — such as missing practice — can cost as much as $100. There’s a two-page list of potential infractions which has been handed down almost 20 years, and it includes things such as dress code violations, missing team-scheduled appearances or doctors appointments, intentionally breaking a stick during a game, hitting your team’s goaltender in the mask with a practice shot or falling during warm-ups.

Goaltender Garrett Bartus accidentally tripped up Louick Marcotte during warm-ups earlier this season, and he ended up tripping Mason Baptista to the ice for a pair of fines.

Leaving shaved facial hair in the sink is a fine, as is shaving chest hair in the shower. A cell phone ringing during a team meeting costs $10. Rookies get fined if they forget to bring a movie on road trips. Throwing a jersey on the locker room floor or walking on the team logo in the locker room are big no-nos.

When the Komets used to practice at McMillen Park Ice Rink, the Finemaster could collect some major money for late fees thanks to the train that regularly crosses Anthony Boulevard. Players trying to cut it close were guaranteed to get stopped for the train.

A Finemaster must be both feared and respected. Usually, about one-third of the players go through an entire season without getting fined.

“I don’t mind because it gives me something to do, and we have a lot of downtime,” Thompson said. “Sometimes it gets kind of tough because guys will have money coming in from all over (depending on which contract they are paid under), so I just have to stay organized. Guys have been pretty good about it, but every once in a while I have to send Sol after them and they pay up pretty quickly. Once it’s happened once, then they know.”

Fines are due the week after payday. Players can appeal a fine, which leads to a Kangaroo Court, though the Komets haven’t had one in a few seasons. By definition, a Kangaroo Court is a judicial-type proceeding that denies proper procedure in the name of expediency. Usually, they lead to a fun team bonding exercise. A player can defend himself (very bad idea) or they can hire a questionably competent attorney from among his teammates (worse idea but more fun). Either way — and unless the offending player has already agreed to buy the judge lunch — the judge almost always still says the player is guilty anyway.

After all, the team needs party money.