The 100 Mile Minor Hockey Association has had to call in senior referees from Merritt to make up for a local shortfall.
Kersti Toews, the association’s administrator, said the league has only has four qualified senior referees to officiate games and they need at least 10. There are 143 players in the league.
“This year we’re earmarked to be on a regular schedule with full league games and practices for all divisions from U7 all the way to U18,” Toews said. “Overall provincially there’s a shortage of officials. We usually have senior officials and adult refs who get involved when their children are in hockey.”
Head referee Wade Balbirnie said he’d welcome some new faces on his team, noting two of his refs are both well into their 60s so he said it’s hard to ask them to do back-to-back games. Having some new, younger senior officials between the ages of 18 and 50 to officiate their U15 to U18 league games would be a big help, he said.
Toews said a good referee is someone who has a professional demeanour, some prior hockey knowledge, the ability to skate and can make good judgment calls. Those interested need to take a series of online courses through Hockey Canada.
“They learn the rules of the game, how to conduct themselves on the ice as an official, hand signals, when a how to drop the puck and penalties,” Toews said.
The only in-person training they need is a four-hour clinic conducted by Balbirnie, who is also an instructor for B.C. Hockey. While the association has already done its clinic this year, if there’s enough interest, Balbirnie said he will apply to host a second one.
“It’s harder to ref a game than play in it, I think. As a referee you have to keep your eye on the play all the time whereas as a player if you don’t have the puck you’re just looking for open ice,” said Balbirnie, who has been a ref since he was 12. “As a referee, you’re trying to keep an eye on as many things as possible at the same time.”
Scheduling of new refs will be based on individual availability as well as the league’s own schedule. Referees are compensated for their time with a stipend, which Toews said varies based on the age of the players.
“We are hosting a U18 recreational level tournament at the beginning of December, so ideally well before that we’ll have more referees in place to officiate that tournament,” Toews said.
“Whether you’re 16, 18 or 60, for the love of the game we encourage you to come back and consider being a referee.”
Those looking to sign up to become a referee are invited to call Balbirnie at 604-818-9488 or call the association’s office at 250-395-4344. Minor hockey’s season runs until March 2022.
“It’s a good way to get involved in the community,” Balbirnie said.