By Adam Jacobs
Officially there are nine teams in Halifax for this year’s International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Hockey Championships.
But if you talk to Todd Anderson, Hockey Canada's interim manager of officiating, there are really 10.
Aside from Canada, Germany, China, U.S.A., Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Japan there are the tournament officials.
“Officials are part of a team, so we’re no different than a hockey club,” he said. “We’re here to work together, so you put aside all the challenges to put forth the best effort on the ice as a group.”
In total there are 14 of the best officials from around the world in Halifax and in preparation they are not much different than a hockey team. They simply don’t skate onto the ice before a game; there is a lot of time and hard work involved before they can do their job effectively.
“That’s why we have some meetings before the event starts,” said referee Stephanie Normand of Quebec. “We have some meetings today and the supervisors will tell us the procedures and stuff like that so everybody will be on the same page.”
With seven different countries and languages represented among the officials, communication and preparation are key.
“We are like a big group here and on the ice if somebody makes a mistake it’s a mistake for the whole team,” said Johanna Suban, a linesman from Finland, one of three Finnish officials involved.
Other countries involved are Canada (four officials), Czech Republic (two), U.S.A. (two) and Norway, Russia and the Netherlands with one apiece.
All of the officials are female, which dates back to a February 1998 meeting in which the IIHF implemented an unwritten rule suggesting as much.
The problem was finding enough competent officials to work at such a high level, but that has since not been a problem.
Normand for instance is in her 13th year of refereeing and has worked such events as the Four Nations Cup, the International World B Championship and she was scheduled to make the trip for last year’s Worlds in China before its cancellation due to SARS.
Johanna Suban is entering her fifth WWHC and has vast international experience. She is also a lineswoman in a league in Finland and in her 12 years as an official has worked in two Olympic events, including Salt Lake City when she was on the ice for Canada’s gold medal victory of the U.S.
Though she lists that game as her proudest moment she is careful to say it was not the most important.
“All the games are important,” she said. “As a referee or a linesman you have to be in every game 100 per cent. All the games are important.”
It is another attribute the players and officials have in common.
“Just like there is a best player in the tournament, there is a best referee,” she said. “Someone can have the goal to be in the final game. But also, one goal is every game that I do my best and support my team (of officials).”
Anderson is confident the IIHF has assembled the world’s best staff to cover the biggest women’s hockey championship in the world.
“These are the best-of-the-best of female officials in the world,” Anderson said. “They bring a lot of good qualities both on and off the ice.” Suban agreed.
“I trust completely my colleagues,” she said. “I know they are really good and we all want to do this thing and we all try our best.”
The officials, like the players, all want to be at the top of their profession and they are not afraid to work to get there.
“It’s true the spectators don’t really see that we are working really hard and it’s also our goal to be in this kind of big tournament,” Suban said. “It’s really a pleasure for us and we all try to do our best.
“Just like there is a best player in the tournament, there is a best referee,” she said. “Someone can have the goal to be in the final game. But also one goal is that every game that I do I do my best and support my team (of officials) here.”