Players and officials are being scouted at the OHL Gold Cup this week.
Sports reporter Teri Pecoskie looks at three local officials hoping to take that next step to the OHL.
The players aren’t the only ones under scrutiny in Kitchener this week. The zebras are too. For the fifth year in a row, the Ontario Hockey League is hosting a high-performance officiating camp in conjunction with the OHL Gold Cup — an annual showcase tournament in which 160 of the province’s top players vie for an invite to Hockey Canada’s national under-17 camp.
And, like the players, the officials are looking to make an impression.
The camp is designed to enhance the development and performance of the top officiating prospects in Ontario. It’s also a tryout. After five days of games and workshops the best of the bunch will be selected to attend the league’s officiating training camp in August and given a chance to compete for a job on the OHL officiating team.
The camp and tournament both wrap up Sunday.
According to officiating director Conrad Hache, more than 80 officials apply for the camp annually and 20 are chosen, including some scouted by the OHL.
He and his staff search for talent at minor midget tournaments, Jr. A games and minor midget matchups in the Greater Toronto Hockey League throughout the season.
The participants — generally men in their 20s — come from across Ontario.
Most go to school or work day jobs. They officiate on the side and share a dream of calling games in the NHL.
There are a lot of officials out there, but there are not a lot of good officials. CONRAD HACHE
Getting there isn’t straightforward.
For players, there is a pathway from minor hockey to junior hockey and the pros that doesn’t really exist for officials. This camp is just one avenue.
Since it was established along-
Of the 20 hopefuls taking part in this week’s camp, at least three are from the Hamilton area. The Spectator met up with each of them in Kitchener to talk about the ups and downs of officiating and why they love the sport.
Age: 19 From: Burlington On what makes a good official: “I think respect is a big thing. Respecting fellow colleagues, fellow officials out on the ice, coaches, players — even the fans. Everyone is a part of the game and everyone has an important role within the game, not just being out there as a referee.”
Age: 21 From: Waterdown On what he likes about the job: “I think there are a lot of transferable skills between officiating and the military and you develop a certain level of confidence because you’re sort of forced to. I’m in the infantry, so you have to be able to make high pressure, quick decisions and it’s the same sort of thing here. Sometimes you screw up, but hopefully you don’t. Hopefully you get better next time. It’s a challenge.”
Age: 21 From: Waterdown On what it feels like to be heckled: “That would be the tough part, especially when you start (officiating) in minor hockey because that’s when the parents are the craziest … You have to have thick skin for sure. It’s definitely a lot different than a player because parents aren’t yelling at you like they do officials.” side the OHL Gold Cup in 2013, the program has graduated 27 officials to the OHL, or roughly a quarter of the league’s current stable. Ninetythree officials work the loop, including 38 referees.
Whether they move on to the OHL or not, the goal of the camp is to produce good officials — something Hache said are in short supply.
“There is a big need for good officials. There are a lot of officials out there, but there are not a lot of good officials,” he added. And what is that, exactly? Strong skaters, Hache said, with good body language, stellar communication skills and an ability to take charge, among other qualities.
It’s not necessarily about whether they make the right call, “but whether they’re coachable.”
How many ultimately earn an invite to training camp in August will depend on how they perform at camp this week (officials will work two games each as linesmen and referees) and on the league’s needs.
Officials get together during the OHL Gold Cup in Kitchener, including Waterdown’s Matt Davidson, left.