Hockey seeks referee-in-chief

by Phil Ambroziak

The puck is about to drop for another season of minor hockey in the Northwest.
Beforehand, however, the Meadow Lake Minor Hockey Association executive – along with other club members – met for the group’s regular fall meeting. The gathering took place Sept. 18 at the Meadow Lake and District Arena where the issue of refereeing was among several topics discussed.

As of last week, the association was still without a referee-in-chief for the 2013-14 season.

“Dale Neudorf looked after that role for the last few years, but he goes away for most of the winter now,” explained Meadow Lake Minor Hockey Association president Richard Temple in an interview conducted later in the week. “He would organize the referees for each game and was also in charge of distributing their pay.”

Temple also noted the referee-in-chief does not have to be an actual referee who officiates games, but rather someone who simply coordinates the various referees to ensure all games can be played as scheduled.

“Everyone I can think to ask has shot me down so far,” he said.

Until a referee-in-chief is hired, it was decided the various division managers would be responsible for scheduling referees for their respective games.

During the meeting, the question of how many referees the association currently has was also raised. While he wasn’t sure how many youth referees there are, Regan Beck said there are close to seven adult officials.

“It’s a real problem getting minor officials,” Beck said.

Jeff Fechter wondered if there were any incentives available to encourage more young people to come forward and referee games while Beck went on to say it’s difficult to recruit young people to officiate games because of the verbal abuse they often take from parents and fans alike.

“I think it mostly has to do with the pressure they find themselves under,” Beck said. “In the past, a lot of the younger officials wanted lines, but would not ref. It’s not worth it to them.”

Beck did suggest a possible solution could be to have both senior and minor officials oversee games together. This way, the more experienced referee could help mentor his or her junior counterpart.

Temple said younger referees find themselves intimidated when coaches and parents yell at them from the bench or from the stands. He also said, if something isn’t done to discourage this behaviour and encourage more young people to referee, it could end up hurting the association overall.

“It means we would have to pay older, more experienced referees, which would end up costing more,” he said. “And, if fewer kids step forward, it will mean fewer experienced officials down the road. We need referees to gain experience, especially when it comes to the older divisions where the hockey is a lot faster. They really need to know the game well.”

Temple did note there are rules in the minor hockey constitution, as well as at the local rinks, stating abuse of any kind won’t be tolerated.

“You can be shown out of the arena for abusing an official,” he said. “We as an association need to get tougher on parents and coaches who are guilty of this.”

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