If you ask any avid Belfast Giants fan or indeed any Irish hockey enthusiasts ‘Who wears the Number 4 Jersey on the Giants team?’ – Your guaranteed an answer. Why? He was involved with the Giants since day one of their establishment, assisted in making them what they are today and was a member of the team for every trophy the Giants have won in their 10 years of existence.
Your answer – Mr. Shane Johnson.
And recently he got to relive those glory moments in a testimonial game held in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast. And the IIHA had a role to play in this prestigious event and was honoured and proud to assist in the form of providing officiating staff for the game, that being veteran lineswoman Jana Gerkena and Jamie Branigan
Both Irish officials represented the IIHA with pride and honour – the first time any on ice official from the IIHA officiating in a game hosted by the Giants. It is evident that the relationship between both sides of the border has grown considerably in recent years. Three or four years ago I guess nobody would have believed that any official from the IIHA would be educated to fulfil such a duty. But the education of on-ice officials has developed in leaps and bounds over the last few years. It’s had to believe that just a few short years ago there were just one or two fully educated officials. Now you can’t count on your fingers the amount. But that is a story for another day.
IIHA President, William Fay, was in talks with Belfast Giants GM Todd Kelman and Shane Johnson when the opportunity arose for two of the IIHA’s linesmen to officiate in the match. After William consulted Interim Referee in Chief, Dean Kelly, they agreed to give permission for the use of two IIHA officials and were more than happy to help the Giants.
Speaking this week to the IIHA Editor Martin Grant, for iiha.org, about her experience officiating at a 4,000 packed Odyssey Arena, a proud as punch Jana Gerkena said: ‘We got the offer and when you get an offer like that you cannot refuse’.
Asked about her on-ice officiating relationship with fellow colleague on the night, Jamie Branigan, Jana stated ‘We get on very well and had a good game. We done a number of games together in Dundalk and last year we visited Latvia and we got to know each other very well and we both work very well on the ice together. We enjoyed seeing each other again’.
The Odyssey Arena was fairly full for what was a fitting tribute for the Giants most decorated player, who now calls Belfast his home.
And moments before the opening of the game, the lights dawned on the rink sides doors for the arrival of the officials onto the ice. The crowd, as you could imagine, was a loud bunch. I’m sure for the three people in the black and white stripes, you’re bound to get a shiver down you spine.
‘There is an amazing feeling when your getting on the ice and when you see 4,000 people in the seats and its dark and the lights are on you as you hit the ice, money can’t buy this feeling’ Jana said, ‘Its incredible, something that I would like to experience in the future’.
Although Jana hasn’t officiated many games in recent times due to circumstances out of the IIHA’s control, the ambitious lineswoman continues to read over the IIHF rule book during her free time at work and at home along with travelling to Dundonald on a weekly basis to practice.
Jana will travel to Reykjavik, Iceland next month (March) where she will officiate at the IIHF World Women Championship Division IV.
The IIHA wish Jana all the best in her upcoming tournament and we know she will represent us proudly and professionally.