Of­fi­cials get on track

Re­ten­tion among is­sues HNL ref­er­ees dis­cuss at AGM

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

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.”

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

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.

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