2022  o p o e ali beres aug 24 main

Striving for the next step

On the ice and in the classroom, Ali Beres was one of eight young officials who developed their skills and learned from some of the country’s best at the Officiating Program of Excellence camp

Chris Jurewicz
August 24, 2022

Transitions have been a major part of Ali Beres’ life.

From growing up in British Columbia to moving across the country to Ontario, spending years as a ringette player to transitioning into a hockey player. Then, another transition, from high-level hockey player to high-level official.

All of those transitions, it would seem, have seen Beres carve a path that could lead to her ultimate goal – officiating in the Olympic Winter Games.

“I want to go to the Olympics and that’s been the dream since I started putting on the stripes. It’s a long-term goal and I’m willing to work for it,” says Beres. “Just the hours at the rink, the learning, the games that didn’t go well, the calls that you missed, everything you put in behind the scenes, the preparation, the cardio, the fitness testing – all that you do to prep, it would have paid off, it would have been for a reason.

“It’s a goal, it’s a dream, it’s something I want to get to … the highest level of competition. That atmosphere, that level of competition, that’s something I want to be a part of.”

Beres is from Lions Bay, B.C., a small town about 30 minutes up the coast from Vancouver. As a kid, she played ringette as there was no girls’ hockey in Lions Bay, but transitioned to hockey around the age of 13. For one season, she played both sports but then made hockey her prime passion. She got so good at the sport that Beres played with B.C. at the 2013 National Women’s Under-18 Championship and went on to play varsity hockey at the University of Western Ontario.

During her youth, Beres also took up officiating, thanks in large part to her mom and dad being involved in that side of the game. Ali and younger sister Maegan both hit the ice as officials and enjoyed managing the game of hockey.

“Maegan and I would go out there and we’d be doing the young ages, the 6-8 year-olds, and doing two to three games a day, just getting the experience out on the ice. I remember just falling in love with it, the different side of the game,” says Beres. “Not everyone knows the effort and time and preparation that goes into officiating. The way I looked at it, when I joined hockey, I wasn’t a very good hockey player coming from ringette. Everyone could shoot and stick handle, I could skate, but that was about it.

“Someone was out there on the ice reffing my house league game and it was cool. They were helping mentor and coach us, they were telling me ‘Hey, you need to stand here on the faceoff.’ They were helping me during the game and I was fortunate enough to play university. Refs manage the game but they’re also out there mentoring the players who may not know all of the rules yet. I took a lot from that. I just loved doing it when I was playing.”

Last week, Beres took part in Hockey Canada’s Officials Program of Excellence (OPOE) camp in Calgary, which took place alongside the BFL National Women’s Program Summer Showcase. The (OPOE) is similar to the well-known program on the players’ side – giving officials a performance pathway to reach their objectives, whether they include the Canada Winter Games, Esso Cup, AAA hockey, International Ice Hockey Federation events or even the Olympics.

Vanessa Stratton was one of four coaches at the OPOE camp. Coincidentally, Stratton is the education manager at Western, Beres’ alma mater, and is an IIHF officiating coach and officiating lead at BC Hockey. Stratton also had the honour of working six IIHF world championships.

“We have produced some great officials. We have officials at Olympics, we’ve had officials at varying levels of world championships,” says Stratton. “But I would say that we never had a foundationally strong structure around officiating that clearly articulated a pathway that officials could pursue in order to achieve their goals. We had different parts of the structure but never everything that was brought together with a specific pathway that talked about different goals and objectives at each kind of checkpoint to get the officials to where they needed to be.”

The OPOE program in calgary, presented in partnership with the Hockey Canada Foundation, included on-ice sessions, fitness testing and in-classroom learning. Beres and her seven colleagues also officiated various games during the Summer Showcase, which brought together 142 players competing for spots on the National Women’s Team, National Women’s Development Team and National Women’s Under-18 Team.

“We have our four coaches here and they have been phenomenal with the amount of experience they have, everything they have to share in the classroom and on the ice,” says Beres. “The girls that they have brought together, it’s awesome, it’s fun. We’re an officiating team. It’s not a group of individuals. We’re bonding, connecting, we’re having fun. We’re out there pushing each other, we’re cheering each other on during the games and having a lot of fun on the ice which is a big part of it.”

The goal, according to Stratton, is to continue growing the OPOE, with regional and national camps, and potentially to even become a gold standard that other countries can use in developing and growing their own officials programs.

For more information on the Officials Program of Excellence, or to find out how you can get involved as a hockey referee or linesperson, visit HockeyCanada.ca .

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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