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Saturday , 23 October 2021

Referee shortage brewing for minor hockey

If enrollment doesn’t pick up in the coming weeks, there could be a shortage of hockey referees able to officiate games in the Lakeland area. 

Rob Larsen, Female Development Coordinator – Hockey Alberta Officials Committee, says with the past two hockey seasons being disrupted, there hasn’t been opportunities to recruit new refs.

The impacts of which could be felt soon in the Bonnyville, Cold Lake, St. Paul, Lac La Biche, and Vermilion area.  

“We have two years worth of officials that pretty much left without a big opportunity to recruit. We’re in a situation now where there’s still a lot of hockey going on, or will certainly be in the near future. People in this area are, by and large, eager to get back out on the ice,” said Larsen. 

While numbers were some of their highest back in 2018-19, that has dwindled. 

“Obviously, 2020-21 with everything that was going on across the province, we were at our lowest numbers yet. So assuming that you’re going to lose people every year, and then throwing in the level of uncertainty…has just put us in a much tighter position,” said Larsen. 

“I think a fair way of saying it is that if numbers don’t pick up, there could be an impact on our ability to support minor hockey to the same level we have before.” 

Larsen encourages minor hockey players who are interested in learning the game from a ref’s perspective to attend a clinic locally in the coming weeks. They are also welcoming those who know the game to give back if they have the chance.

The situation is not isolated to the Lakeland area, as the impacts to sport have been felt province and nation-wide, and Larsen there are other regions of Alberta that are facing major ref shortages.

He encourages teenagers to the middle aged of varying experience to try it out.

“You basically set your own schedule because you say when you’re available and when you’re not. So you can do it while you’re playing. minor hockey, which most kids do. I think that’s the difference between officiating and maybe working what you would call your normal job. You get to set your parameters.

“They don’t have to be trained. We will train them, we’ll take the time. To me, it’s all about getting the kids back on the ice and playing and not having any more interruptions to their season if we can help.”

There are referees clinics happening in the region in the coming days and weeks.

  • Vermilion – Oct. 7
  • Cold Lake – Oct. 16
  • Elk Point – Oct. 17
  • Lac La Biche – Oct. 30

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.