Niagara’s Mr. Saturday Night
In Niagara basketball reffing circles, Azlan Bacchus is affectionately known as Mr. Saturday Night.
The moniker attached to the 38-year-old Beamsville resident is in recognition of the fact that over the past decade, Bacchus has officiated several of the most important high school basketball games in Niagara. In front of packed and noisy gyms, he has reffed Standard finals on Friday nights at St. Catharines Collegiate and Trib Tourney finals, usually contested Saturday night at Notre Dame.
“I still get called that all the time,” the Brampton native said. “It’s become a bit of a joke now but by luck or whatever it was, I was offered those games and I would take them. People would see me on Saturday nights and some of the refs decided that’s what they would call me.”
Bacchus is in no rush to get Mr. Saturday Night business cards printed up.
“It’s nice to be recognized for that but I don’t take it too seriously. I just try to go out there and do the best job that I can,” he said. “You know what? To get these games is an honour.”
It is also a thrill. Few sporting events in Niagara can match the excitement and energy of championship nights at the Trib and Standard tourneys.
“One of the things I definitely thrive on is the energy in the gym,” the father of two said. “I remember a couple of Tribune finals and a couple of Standard finals where the gyms were packed and you’re as pumped as the players.
“You feel the pressure just like the players.”
But it’s good pressure.
“I don’t even know how to explain it but it is the best feeling in the world when there is a packed gym and there’s great basketball happening,” he said. “It just brings you to a whole new level of reffing versus when there are seven people in the stands and you can hear a pin drop.”
The national retail sales director for Nespresso has enjoyed being a part off Niagara sporting history.
“Before all this (pandemic) happened, I would see all the kids around at the mall or out and about and the first thing we would always talk about after the pleasantries was one of the games I officiated,” he said. “We would always end up talking about basketball and remember that time when? It’s a great feeling when the kids even remember you doing those games. Just talking about it and reliving it is so much fun.”
Bacchus played all sports growing up and was best at tennis, receiving a couple scholarships offered to the States that he didn’t accept. A friend helped him get into officiating.
“I always loved the sport and I had a buddy who reffed in Brampton and he was alway telling me about reffing and how much fun it was and that it was a good way to stay in shape.”
The friend gave him a referral to the Niagara District Basketball Referees Association and after speaking to Pat Laing, he joined the association.
“I went to a meeting and, I guess, the rest is history.”
He officiates at the high school, Basketball Ontario and college level. He normally does about four to six college games a year and has officiated at the men’s and women’s Ontario Colleges Athletic Association provincial championships.
Bacchus has been officiating for 17 seasons.
“I love basketball but wasn’t very good at it so if you can’t play you might as well ref,” he said. “ Other reasons are staying in shape and it’s a good way to get out and meet people. I really love interacting with people and if you can do two things, interact with people you love and ref the game of basketball, why not do it?”
There are no secrets as to what makes a good ref.
“It’s the ability to communicate, the ability to interact with various types of people and you have to have a love for the sport that you ref.”
His philosophy is to let the players play.
“I am just there to be an intermediary basically. I am not too concerned about the outcome of the game. I just want to make sure that we are there doing the best job possible and not interfering with the flow of the game. I want to make sure that I am in the right position, I am hustling at all times and when I see something, I make the call.”
Officiating sometimes requires a thick skin.
“I don’t think anyone can ever say that they are immune to the crowd and it all depends on the crowd itself and what is happening,” he said. “To be honest, there have been a few times that I have taken a couple of things personally but ultimately you do what you have to do and try to ignore them as much as possible.”
The Niagara District Basketball Referees Association is an older association and Bacchus is encouraging people to pick up a whistle.
“It’s not for everyone but if they are looking to do it, they have to do it for the right reasons and they have to give it their full effort,” he said. “Think about it as giving back to your community and think about it as being a role model for the kids in how you officiate and how you talk to them and communicate with the coaches.”
It’s time to win with BPSN!
To entice readers to make a donation to our site, we have come up with a contest.
BPSN is offering four prizes to anyone who makes a donation to our site, regardless of the amount. In addition, anyone who has made a contribution to our site in the past three months will also be entered in the contest. The contest will run until March 1 at midnight. At that time, four names will be randomly selected and contacted as the winners.
Thanks to Jeff Chcoski at the Niagara Brew Club for generously donating a Free Batch of Wine, 30 bottles, valued at $135 while Dan Timmins at Big Red Markets in Thorold has donated a $100 gift certificate.
As well, the Niagara IceDogs have donated a framed, autographed picture of Akil Thomas scoring the golden goal for Canada at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships while the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games have donated a hoody.
Just hit the Support Us button located halfway down the right-hand side of our home page or the yellow Support Us button located at the top of each story to make your donation and be eligible to win.