It’s never too late to become passionate about Canada’s Number One game.
For someone who was a figure skater but never played hockey, Haley Wieler’s love of the sport began by following her referee husband, Nathan Wieler, to watch his games. At first, she didn’t understand why the game was so important to him because he wasn’t winning or losing – he was officiating.
“Instead of being a nagging wife, I wanted to be a supportive wife, so I really learned to enjoy the game of hockey,” said 31-year-old Haley, of Unity, Sask.
Enjoyment is an understatement.
Haley dug into the officials’ world, attending a referee clinic that Nathan didn’t believe she would finish.
“I found it bizarre at first because she had so little interest or knowledge,” said Nathan, from Melville, Sask.
Learning about hockey at age 24 is harder because Haley didn’t have the skills that most develop as children or teenagers. Haley said she became a very serious student of the game, considering herself fortunate to be taught and coached from one of the best, her husband. Nathan is a Western Hockey League referee.
Haley expected to start officiating at a low minor hockey level since she was so new to hockey. In her first year, she worked twenty games but by the time the following hockey season came to a close, she had well over two hundred games as a ref behind her.
According to Haley, she is simply making up for something that she missed out on as a child.
When asked what her most memorable hockey moment has been, Haley replied without hesitation that it happened on Jan..
“I was honoured to officiate a pre-Olympic game with Stephanie Normand and Kim Robichaud from Quebec,” she said, explaining that the National Women’s Team stepped out onto the ice right after them. The roar of the crowd cheering on Team Canada will stick with her a long time to come.
Haley admits she has since become almost obsessed about being an effective rule enforcer of the great Canadian game.
Although she readily agrees that Nathan knows the rule book far better than she does, Haley believes her knowledge of the procedural manual for linesmen is more impressive than that of her husband.
The student takes her role so seriously because the officiating supervisors aim for perfection on everything from where they stand, where they skate or what hot spots they have to move to on the ice surface.
Nathan is clearly proud of his wife. His favourite moment was at a recent Junior B men’s game.
“I see all the elements that I taught her come together,” he said. “She was in all the right places at all the right times, showing excellent judgement from start to finish.”
Since Haley grew up in Unity, she can handle the -30 C weather when she goes to outdoor rinks to practise her skating skills. It’s a good way to toughen up a ref, she said.
Haley knows that at times players or coaches forget that she is doing the best she can at any given moment, and she admits that it’s hard not to take it personally sometimes when people don’t believe that she is dedicated to making fair and reasonable calls.
But drive, determination and an undeniable passion for the sport have helped make Haley one of the best female refs in the country, according to her biggest fan Nathan and many who have watched her doing what she loves. Haley has turned the support she was at first showing for her husband into a genuine love for hockey all her own.