SUNDAY, APRIL 7: MY THREE MINUTES IN THE BIG LEAGUES
by Lia Codrington, guest blogger
I rolled out of bed last Saturday, March 30 and grabbed my phone, eager to see if I had been given my volunteer schedule for the upcoming women’s world championship. The email had not yet arrived, but another message in my inbox caught my eye. The subject read “Female officials - under 16 - ODWHRA.” Being a sixteen-year-old female referee, I was immediately intrigued.
The message inside called for a young female referee to officiate a “Novice mini-game” during the second intermission of the Canada-Finland game on Friday, April 5. My finger hovered over the reply button. Did I really want to be the lone referee officiating a game on an international-sized ice rink in front of thousands of people? What the heck. I went for it.
Friday came faster than Meghan Agosta-Marciano’s snapshot. I changed my battered skate laces for clean white ones, and I checked my bag five times to make sure my whistle hadn’t chickened out and crawled away while I wasn’t looking. I wouldn’t have blamed it if it had.
My dad and I drove to SBP Arena and watched Canada open the game with three goals in the first period. After a ceremony celebrating the alumnae of Canada’s National Women’s Team from 1992, 1994 and 1997 during the intermission, it came time for me to make my way to the bowels of the arena.
After wandering through the 300 level, I finally found the right elevator and began my descent. The elevator door opened at arena level and revealed Canada’s famous female hockey pioneers. All of them. It was a gauntlet I was happy to run, high-fiving household names in a moment of shock. Did I really just bump fists with the likes of Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Angela James?
With each step I took toward the makeshift dressing area, the surrealism continued. Alexei Yashin, sporting a black toque and overcoat, walked by me. Girls ran to and fro, strapping on elbow pads and neck guards. The enthusiasm rolling off the young Novice players and their parents filled the cavernous space. A volunteer, seeing me standing on the edge of the crowd, gave me the low down.
I was to drop two pucks and not call any off sides or icings. All eighteen skaters and two goalies, who had come from all over Ontario to compete in the Ontario Womens’ Hockey Association provincial championships, would be on the ice for a short, three-minute game.
Soon, everyone was dressed and ready to play. We were given a five minute warning and lined up in the Zamboni tunnel for the end of the second period. From my spot in the procession, I watched Canada score a glorious goal at the far end of the ice. I turned to the girl in front of me and asked, “are you going to score like that?” She turned and shrugged. She looked as nervous as I felt.
We took to the ice, and I installed myself at the centre face-off dot with a puck in each hand. After a double puck drop, the girls scurried off in opposite directions, and I was left alone in the middle of the ice trying not to look up at the women’s hockey record-breaking 18,013 fans.
I skated backwards to the boards, whipping my head back and forth to try and watch both pucks at once. A goal went in on my left side, and I sprinted over and brought my arm down. Cheers rained down from the crowd above. The puck was picked out of the net and play continued for another minute or so, before I had to blow the whistle and guide the players off the ice.
We made our way back down the tunnel, the girls shocked by the shortness of it all. As I walked down the thin strip of rubber on back to the dressing area, two women stopped me in front of the official referees’ room. They were both IIHF referees: one from France, and the other from Britain. They wished me luck in my refereeing career and gave me pins from their respective countries.
I thanked them and went back to my folding chair by the wall to unlace my skates. Looking around, the sheer number of smiling people milling about astounded me. It was a night of success, with Canada winning 8-0; a night of records broken, with the largest crowd women’s hockey has ever seen; and a night showcasing Ontario’s young talent that will be part of Canada’s future in female hockey. Thank goodness I clicked that reply button.
A Rookie Referee,
About Rookie Reflections: Lia Codrington is an Ottawa, Ont., resident who is guest blogging for Rookie Reflections. She is a publications volunteer for the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, a high school student by today, a hockey player and official on the weekends, and we think a very talented writer with a great career ahead! Lia and her fellow volunteers, who are generously giving their energy and time to make this event a success, are taking us behind the scenes at SBP Arena in Ottawa, Ont., the Nepean Sportsplex and everywhere in between for the inside scoop on what goes into hosting a major world championship in the nation’s capital.