In hockey, as in other competitive sports, officials play a vital role – without them, you don’t have a game.
As the female game has grown, so too has the need for elite-level officials. According to Todd Anderson, Hockey Canada’s manager of officiating, the problem isn’t finding the officials, it’s finding the officials in the right area of the country.
“The challenge in the system is being able to provide the officials with the experience to be able to climb the ladder,” he says, noting that registration of female officials has doubled in the last 10 years. “Not every branch, not every region, not every city has a high-level of hockey.”
Anderson says Hockey Canada’s big push right now is to find the most talented officials, those that show the most promise, and do what it can to provide the best learning environment possible.
But where are these high-level officials found?
Julie Healy, Hockey Canada’s director of female hockey, says many come from playing the game at a high level, because their knowledge of the game gives them an advantage.
“Your best officials have played the game,” Healy says. “They have a good sense of how to manage the game and what the game is all about. Somebody who hasn’t played the game at a high level could struggle a bit with it.”
Ideally, she says, players can begin to experience officiating during their playing days, making a little easier to make the transition.
“We’d like to target all female Midget players and get them thinking about officiating. For those whose dream of playing for Canada hasn’t panned out, they have a really good base of skating and understanding of the game on which to build an officiating career.”
Examples of the transition are out there – Carolyn Laforge, and up-and-coming official in Quebec, played in the regional under-18 program and Heather Richardson, one of the top female linesman in the world, played university hockey with some of the players now starring for Canada’s National Women’s Team.
Anderson says the success stories are out there, but there needs to be more, possibly from players who come up short in their quest to represent their country.
“We need more interest from somebody, for example, who might not make the National Women’s Under-22 Team, but who could make a terrific official,” he says. “Women’s players play the game for longer, so we need to start getting to players early, showing them there is another path that involves them staying on the ice.
“We can escalate development if the tools are already in the tool box, but that is what we are missing right now. If they keep playing, and officiating isn’t an option for them at a young age, then we miss out on getting them into the system at a nice age to be able to have a career in officiating.”
So how can someone get involved in officiating? Check out information on the officiating program at hockeycanada.ca – found in the Minor Hockey section – and find out who the female officiating coordinator is in each branch.