Great skating, a good knowledge of the game, thick skin and the ability to
calmly manage conflict.
Want to be a successful referee? Start there, according to Meghan MacTavish.
MacTavish is carving her path on the international hockey scene. She is
fresh off her sixth IIHF assignment, having worked at the IIHF Women’s
World Championship, Division 1A tournament in Hungary last month.
The 32-year-old Fredericton, N.B., resident has become a role model among
Atlantic officials and regularly mentors up-and-coming referees and
linesmen who want to progress in the game.
“A lot of people would freak out at things, [but] I tell them to take a
second, stand back, stay calm and rationalize a situation,” says MacTavish
when asked what she tries to instill in young referees. “You don’t want to
react to something just because it makes a big noise or there’s somebody
yelling at you. You need to put it into perspective.
“And I always tell the people I supervise to have fun. We might as well
have a laugh out there on the ice and appreciate the game.”
Her way of keeping things under control has seen MacTavish rise through the
ranks. She has worked a number of national events as a referee or linesman,
including two Canada Winter Games, nine CIS/U SPORTS national
championships, a handful of National Women’s Under-18 Championships and the
Esso Cup, Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, and in 2016, she
became the first woman to officiate a game in the Maritime Hockey League.
On the international scene, MacTavish has been a referee at the 2012 Winter
Youth Olympic Games, and at a number of women’s worlds – the 2013 Division
2 Group B, 2014 U18 Division 1, 2017 Division 1 Group B, 2018 Division 1
Group A and the recent 2019 Division 1 Group A.
Her travels have taken her to Austria, Spain, Hungary, Poland and France,
but the Maritimes are where her heart lies.
MacTavish has called Fredericton home since 2004, when she moved from
Ottawa to study political science and play hockey at St. Thomas University.
She married Mark MacTavish, whose family owns MacTavish’s Source for
Sports, in 2017 and the couple has a four-year-old daughter, Ellie.
“I have the house, the kid, the car,” says MacTavish. “I have it all with
MacTavish says the support she has received in Fredericton is second to
none, starting with her husband and daughter, who are often at the rink
when she is officiating close to home. And when her games are abroad, Mark
handles the day-to-day responsibilities of parenthood.
MacTavish also works as a bar manager at RustiCo in downtown Fredericton
and says her boss and the staff there provide the utmost support. The
community at large also follows Meghan’s progress and she says being able
to balance it all – work, officiating, parenting – is built on that
“Fortunately I have a very supportive husband who does take the brunt of it
during hockey season. They are my biggest fans. Ellie and Mark tend to come
to the rink when I’m in the rink all day Saturday and Sunday,” she says.
“I’m lucky that my work is also quite flexible and my boss is extremely
flexible. He’s even put my games on TV behind the bar so everybody can
watch it while I’m away. So you try and find a balance.”
Like many Canadians, MacTavish got her start in the game as a youngster.
She first played ringette but switched over to hockey in Peewee. As a
teenager, she was looking for part-time work to have some pocket cash and
her dad mentioned the possibility of officiating. The two took the
appropriate courses together and MacTavish says it took off from there.
“I really enjoyed it,” she says. “My parents got up at 6 a.m. to drive me
to my Novice games at the time so I’m very thankful to my mother and father
for that. They also taught me so much about perseverance. I have a passion
as a referee that I didn’t have as a player.”
That passion has allowed MacTavish to see parts of Canada and the world she
never thought she would get to. But she’s not completely satisfied yet,
listing the IIHF Women’s World Championship and Olympics among her goals.
Like any great mentor, though, MacTavish is just as focused on ensuring she
helps the next wave of female officials and would like to see her mentees
go even further in the game than she has.
And who knows? Maybe young Ellie will take over the officiating reigns from
mom in the future.
“She already skates,” says MacTavish. “I ask her ‘Do you want to be a
goalie or defenceman?’ She says ‘I want to be a referee like mommy.’ If
that’s what she wants to do, good on her.
“She’s learning a respect and maturity for the game that I had to learn.
She has the opportunity weekly to watch and learn. I am fortunate that she
has gained an appreciation for the game and it makes family time fun when
she watches mommy on the ice doing what she loves.”