While Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Team will undoubtedly be the main attraction at the 2008 IIHF World Women’s Under-18 Championship in Calgary, it won’t be the only group of Canadians making its debut on international hockey’s biggest stage.
Two of the three Canadian officials assigned to the event – referee Mary Anne Gage and linesman Denise Caughey – will be making their first appearances at a top-flight International Ice Hockey Federation world championship.
Gage, a Burlington, ON native, says making her IIHF debut in Canada will be quite an experience.
“The energy level of Canadian fans is always so high, it will be a great experience to be a part of that,” she says. “I won’t get the chance to do any Canada games, but the atmosphere in the building should be amazing.”
Although the Under-18 world championship will be her first taste of IIHF action, Gage is no stranger to international hockey, having worked as a referee at the 2007 Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China, and as a linesman at the 2006 4 Nations Cup in Kitchener, ON.
But while she says the previous experience will prove valuable, she admits there will be a little bit of added pressure taking the ice in Canada at an IIHF world championship.
“The crowds should be pretty good, which can be a good and bad thing,” Gage says. “I’m sure there will be some nerves for the first game, but I just have to approach it like any other game, regardless of what the event is.”
While Canada’s players will have two world championship veterans in head coach Melody Davidson and assistant coach Danielle Goyette to guide them through their first international experience, Gage will have plenty of help of her own.
Fellow referees Anu Hirvonen of Finland, Joy Tottman of Great Britain and Katerina Ivicicova of the Czech Republic all officiated at the 2007 IIHF World Women’s Championship in Winnipeg, while linesmen Kerri Rumble of Calgary, Kelly O’Brian of the USA, Marina Konstantinova of Russia and Alice Stanley of Great Britain were also part of the officiating crew in Winnipeg.
Gage has had the opportunity to work Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) games with Rumble in Ontario in the past, and will look to draw from not only her prior experiences, but those of every official who will be in Calgary.
“I am really looking forward to learning from all of the officials who are attending,” Gage says. “Obviously the ones who have been to the world women’s championship are great sources of knowledge, but I can learn from everyone.”
Gage, Caughey and Rumble have all reached the international level of officiating by working through the Hockey Canada Officiating Program (HCOP). They are just three of the more than 1,400 female officials across the country who one day hope to reach the level of success that Gage and her fellow officials have achieved.
In all, eight female Canadian officials will work at IIHF events during the 2007-08 season, all of them products of the HCOP.
“The way our program is set up, young officials get plenty of opportunities to be seen and make a name for themselves as they work their way up through the four levels of the Hockey Canada Officiating Program,” says Todd Anderson, Hockey Canada’s manager of officiating. “Once they reach the level that Mary Anne, Denise and Kerri have reached, they are prepared for that level of hockey.”
According to Gage, who had the honour of refereeing the nationally-televised gold medal game at the 2007 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, the opportunities are endless for young officials who have dreams of one day being on the ice at an international event.
“There are so many opportunities through your Branch, from provincial championships to provincial winter games, Canada Winter Games, Hockey Canada development camps, they really are endless. I have met such amazing people across the country and around the world. It can be an unbelievable journey, so skate hard, study your rules, and have fun!”
For more information on how to become involved with the Hockey Canada Officiating Program, visit the Minor Hockey section at www.hockeycanada.ca.