Hockey Calgary shorthanded when it comes to referees and they’re on the lookout for more officials

CALGARY –

Referees are a big part of hockey but this year, Hockey Calgary is finding it hard to get new recruits to wear the black and white stripes.

The drop in numbers is startling.  Calgary has half as many officials working games this year. 

Hockey Alberta central region referees coordinator Dave Coles said he’s never seen the numbers this low.

“We went from 1600 officials that we would normally be carrying into September down to 851 officials,” Coles said.

Some officials retired and a new crop of refs, for whatever reason, didn’t materialize this year.  Part of it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Hockey Alberta executive director Kevin Kobelka said there’s another reason why the numbers are declining.

“We’re losing officials because of some of the things that happen at the rink,” Kobelka told CTV.

“Some of the abuse and some of the yelling,” he said. “We want to make sure that everyone understands that the officials are young and they’re learning.”

“They’re growing and they’re going to make mistakes and we need to do the best that we can to support them.”

Kelsey Hagan, Hockey Alberta’s female development coordinator for refereeing,  is also a veteran official. Hagan has been blowing the whistle on the ice for 16 years.

Calgary has half as many officials working games this year.

She said this is as busy as it’s ever been for officials.

“Usually we do one game a day in the “A” program and now we’re doing two or three games a day,” Hagan said.

“People are getting to the rink at 2 or 3:00 pm and it’s their second or third game of the day so it’s been pretty crazy.”

The lack of officials on the ice can also affect the game.  16-year-old Devon Hall has been refereeing for three years.  He said Hockey Calgary can’t always get the number of officials on the ice that they’d like to.

“For a U18 game you need three guys,” Hall said, “and sometimes we’ve only got two out there reffing the game and it’s a lot more difficult on the refs.”

Eighteen-year-old Kayley Young has been an on ice official for five years.  She said she loves being on the ice because it keeps her attached to the game and it’s a pretty good part time job.

“I played for eight years and then it got too tiring and I didn’t have the energy for it anymore so I switched to refereeing,” Young said.

“It’s been a great way to stay on the skates and keep in with hockey while making a bit of money while doing it.”

Hockey Calgary will have refereeing clinics running until the end of November. Coles said they need to do more to get more people interested in officiating.

“We’re going to pound the pavement,” he said.  “We’re going to do things like this.  We’re going to go to arenas and put up signs and we’re going to reach out to communities.  We’re going to ask them for help.”

If you’re interested in refereeing just go to www.hockeyalberta.ca and go to the officials tab.  Click on clinics and registration.

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