Officials get on track
Retention among issues HNL referees discuss at AGM
In a first of its kind for this province, the referee division of Hockey NL met for a referee’s summit during its Annual General Meeting.
Summit might not be the right word. On-ice officiating in Newfoundland and Labrador is not at the point where it needs fixing, but like anything else, there is room for improvement.
In the conference room of the Albatross Hotel, delegates started exploring ways the provincial body can get stronger in its numbers and on the ice.
Breaking up into focus groups, the officials — who hailed from associations across the province — discussed their experiences in their rink, as well as what is working and isn’t working for them.
“It gave you a different perspective,” said Bay Arena refereein-chief David Crane. “Some issues were the same, while others were different. It was a good learning experience.”
The meetings focused on four pillars that the referee’s program is built — recruitment, retention, development and supervision.
The brainchild of provincial referee-in-chief Don Kelly and Kevin Heffernan, supervisor of officials, the meetings were seen as a “strategic planning session” amongst its 10 delegates.
“It gave us a good concept of what’s happening outside the bubble,” said Kelly. “It worked really well. We got some good feedback and ideas.
“We have a good team in place.”
There had been meetings like this before. They usually occurred at the fall HNL meetings, but they’ve never featured the extensive discussion this one involved.
However, it was not a quick fix for any problems associations have. Kelly said the plan moving forward is to form sub-committee that will further dive into what was discussed in Gander. This committee will produce a two-to-three year plan that will hopefully address many of issues that arose.
“There were a lot of quick questions, but there aren’t a lot of quick answers,” said Kelly. Recruitment strong The four referee associations in the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region each have a yearly recruitment that adds to their existing stable of officials.
In fact, recruitment is trending upwards across the province.
“We’ve been going great with recruitment,” said Kelly.
If recruitment is going well, the challenge then becomes keeping them in the black and white jersey. The retention of officials is an issue every association and hockey group across the country is dealing with.
Hockey Canada loses upwards to 10,000 officials a year. That’s a staggering number of young officials who are giving up the game before they can be- come veteran guys.
“Retention is not as good,” said Kelly. “It is not where we’d like to be. There all kinds of reasons for that.”
Aside from the obvious factors like abuse of officials and game fees, there are also outside factors contributing to the loss of referees. Things like other jobs, school and time constraints can prevent a young official from returning.
“We have to make sure we aren’t pushing them too quickly,” said Crane. “We have to let them work at a level where they’re comfortable, but also challenge them as well.”
Being an on-ice official can be good for the development of a young hockey player. It helps them understand the game and keeps some change in their pocket.
The challenge becomes developing the young ones so that they get from a Level I official to a Level III official.
“You’re never going to keep everybody. If you can have guys who mentor, that helps,” said Crane. “There is a big part for everybody to play.”
Members of HNL’s referees association met at the Albatross Hotel during its AGM to discuss how to keep officials like Kyle Cronin (left) and Jared Petten in the game.