Love of hockey binds refs together

Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger are some of longest-serving and oldest referees of the 100 Mile Minor Hockey Association, both having received lifetime memberships. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger are some of longest-serving and oldest referees of the 100 Mile Minor Hockey Association, both having received lifetime memberships. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger are some of longest-serving and oldest referees of the 100 Mile Minor Hockey Association, both having received lifetime memberships. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger are some of longest-serving and oldest referees of the 100 Mile Minor Hockey Association, both having received lifetime memberships. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger have been playing hockey and referring together for well over three decades now. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger have been playing hockey and referring together for well over three decades now. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger have been playing hockey and refereeing together for well over three decades. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger have been playing hockey and refereeing together for well over three decades. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger have been playing hockey and referring together for well over three decades now. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger have been playing hockey and referring together for well over three decades now. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger warm-up before a 100 Mile Minor Hockey game. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger warm-up before a 100 Mile Minor Hockey game. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger warm-up before a 100 Mile Minor Hockey game. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Bruce Bruce Stusrud and Ray Krueger warm-up before a 100 Mile Minor Hockey game. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

A love of hockey brought Leonard ‘Bruce’ Stusrud and Ray Krueger together.

The two first met on the ice as rival defencemen in a beer league but become friends when they volunteered together for 100 Mile Minor Hockey. Although both have served as coaches in the past, they are most known for their reliable role as referees and have received lifetime memberships in minor hockey.

“It’s been a great experience, the whole minor hockey thing,” Krueger, 64, said. “It’s really just meeting people and making lifelong friends.”

Stusrud has a long history with the organization, starting in 1965 when he was nine years old. 100 Mile Minor Hockey had just been formed and he decided to join even though he couldn’t skate, handing over $5 for the privilege. At the time, they played on outdoor rinks for short intense seasons, competing against teams from Lac La Hache, 93 Mile and Forest Grove.

“You were on the ice a lot. Every weekend,” Stusrud, 65, said. “Then volunteers went and built the old barn rink. The first year we were able to skate on it, in 1971, they flooded it with water from the marsh and the ice was yellow. We were able to get six more weeks of extra hockey with it.”

It would be a few years before he would meet Krueger, who was seven when he started playing hockey in his hometown of Victoria. He moved to 100 Mile House in 1981 for “three weeks” to grade roads for West Fraser but ended up staying. A few years later, when he was in his 30s, he joined the beer league where he met Stusurd.

Stusrud joked the two of them have “met in the corners a few times.” They struck up a friendship after their sons joined minor hockey, taking on “a full run of everything” – serving as the association’s president, vice-president, coaches and even equipment managers.

Stusrud particularly loved being the referee-in-chief, which he said he took on when there were only 10 referees left. Using a poster modelled off of old war propaganda posters at the 100 Mile Fall Fair, he said they were able to attract an additional 30 referees to the team.

For Krueger, getting the training to provide skill development in young players was the best part of volunteering. He used that training to help 60 players in the seven to nine age group.

While they are no longer hockey parents, the two of them have remained on the ice as referees, mostly because of their love for the game. They will even referee the old-timer’s hockey league.

READ MORE: 100 Mile Minor Hockey seeks more referees

“We’re reffing guys in their 40s and we remember them when they were novices. We coached those kids and they all know us,” Stusrud said.

Krueger said he enjoys seeing if the older players bring their same childhood attitudes and habits onto the ice. That can be a double-edged sword, Stusrud said, especially if the player used to be “a problem child” that caused them headaches back in the day.

During the minor hockey games, Krueger and Stusrud do their best to mentor young refs and help build up their confidence. Stusrud said referees develop a thick skin and he feels for those coming up the ranks. With a widespread shortage of referees right now, Krueger said people should be kinder to refs and not chase them away from the sport.

The two friends plan to continue playing and reffing hockey for as long as they can. They encourage the next generation of referees to keep hockey fun.

“There are so many parents who have their little guys in hockey and already they have the stars in their eyes and say I’m going to take my kid to this centre for better coaching,” Stusrud said. “Just let those little guys go out there and have fun.”



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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