Fourteen-year-old Blake Deschenes is this year's recipient of the Murray Sullivan bursary for young referees. Sullivan was a prominent local official

Local teen receives officiating bursary

Fourteen-year-old Blake Deschenes uses funds to attend overnight camp in Osoyoos.

A tragedy 12 years ago was soon blessed with a positive legacy that continues to aid the youth of Hope.

Murray Sullivan was a player, coach and official in Hope Minor Hockey for many years before July 1, 1999. On that day, he had almost arrived at his workplace at the Boston Bar mill when his vehicle was hit head-on and he was killed.

News of the event spread quickly through the local hockey community and the community in general and soon there were plans for ways to help continue the good works Sullivan had been doing for hockey in Hope.

By 2000, a fund was set up to give bursaries to young hockey officials who were willing to attend referee schools during the summer.

“David Jones and Larry Green really pushed for it,” recalled Sullivan’s mother Shirley on Monday. “Larry was a good friend and he was the first on the scene of the accident.

“They started the fund the next year,” she said. “ They dedicated the whole Friendship Tournament to Murray and they had raffles to raise money.”

Sullivan had been a mentor for Jones, who continued on with his officiating and worked games in the East Coast Hockey League. Jones continues as a trustee for the fund, along with Leah Romano and Barb Sharrers, though he now runs a business in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sharrers recounted the essence of the fund.

“Murray was one of the most beloved people in the Hope hockey community; always willing to share his ideas and offer his help to young hockey players and officials.  Murray was responsible for assisting in the development of players into the junior ranks, and officials into the professional ranks. The Murray Sullivan Officiating Bursary was started to continue Murray’s passion for the game of hockey, and honour his commitment to the development of officials.”

The Officiating Bursary was designed to assist in the development of officials ages 12 to 25, and make it possible for them to attend summer officiating schools.

This year’s deserving recipient is 14-year-old Blake Deschenes, who is going into his third year of officiating. He also won the award last year, which he used to attend the Western Canadian Reffing School in Langley. This year, Deschenes went to the overnight camp in Osoyoos, put on by  the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association, August 1 to 5.

On and off-ice sessions took up seven or eight hours of each day but there were also some recreation breaks at the beach or mini-golf. Teams also had to plan skits to present on Thursday night at the “dinner theatre.”

Deschenes’ team performed a skit about the instructors, which he said was the best one.

Before heading back home, Deschenes wrote his annual certification exam — and earned a 96 per cent rating. His dad Gilbert got a 98 last year, so Blake said, “I’ve got something to shoot for.

“I think it’s great that they’re giving this bursary to referees,” added Blake, “because it’s a way to send kids out for training and get better referees.”

When NHL linesman Jay Sharrers heard about the high score, he texted, “I am very happy to hear that Blake is pursuing officiating. With a score of 96 per cent on his final test that demonstrates his hard work and dedication. I wish Blake the best of luck as he puts in the effort to achieve his goals with respect to officiating.”

After his first year of Bantam, Blake decided to give up on goaltending and put on the stripes full time.

“It’s a lot more fun, rather than being stuck in the net,” he said. “It’s good to give back the game, too.”

And yes: getting paid isn’t a bad thing, he conceded with a grin.

Deschenes encouraged other skaters to consider officiating as well, as a few have graduated and will be out of town and others are stepping aside. Officials will have to be brought in from out of town if Hope cannot supply enough of its own, he said.

He also warned returning players of the tightening up of rules on contact to the head.

“Even a face wash will give you four minutes this year, because there is an intent to contact the head.”

Barb Sharrers estimated that 27 young officials have been helped by the fund since 2000, though she is concerned about the depletion of the account.

“The funds are going down and probably could only last a few more years unless there are some new donations.”