Teen referees in demand for atom hockey tournaments

Hope teens in black and white were needed to complete the reffing staff at a hockey tournament in Chilliwack on Saturday

Four Hope-based officials

Hope teens in black and white shirts were in high demand down the valley last weekend, for Chilliwack Minor Hockey’s annual atom house and atom rep tournament. With games running concurrently on as many as four ice sheets, there was a big need for extra officials from other communities.

Hope’s referee-in-chief, Paul Fredrickson said on Monday, “We’ve got about a half a dozen young refs, not counting Brennan Walker and Blake Deschenes, in Hope now. We had Jake Druet, Brady Loring, Brandon Pennell and Vinny Pellegrino down in Chilliwack over the weekend.”

Loring and Pennell, who attended the same reffing course in Merritt and reffed their inaugural game together last season, officiated in five straight games in Chilliwack. Loring was the head ref in one match and Pennell led the way in three others.

“It was tiring,” said Pennell, Monday. “My feet hurt.” Pennell, who just turned 15, plays defence for Chilliwack’s AAA-rep bantam team and he had a game in Seattle, Sunday. He was back at Prospera Centre on Monday for dry land training, followed by an on-ice practice.

There’s not much spare time for the grade 9 Hope Secondary student but he gets in some shifts in the kitchen at McDonald’s and wears the stripes for one or two games a week, on average.

“It’s another hobby and it’s fun,” said Pennell of reffing. “I’ll probably keep doing it even when I’m an adult.”

Speaking of adults, Pennell, Loring and another linesman had to get between opposing coaches at an atom rep game, Saturday. “They were almost getting into a fight,” said Pennell.

Respect for officials is a topic that came up in the NHL last week, when Calgary Flames defenceman Dennis Wideman crosschecked linesman Don Henderson from behind. The same night, former Hope Minor Hockey player and referee, Jay Sharrers caught a misplaced punch from the LA Kings’ Milan Lucic. Sharrers is in his 27th season as an NHL official. They have to look out for pucks and errant sticks but minor hockey refs don’t usually have to deal with physical abuse. Verbal abuse has been a concern, though and Hope’s referee-in-chief says a new initiative, endorsed by Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden has had a positive effect on the respect shown to on-ice officials.

“It started this year,” said Fredrickson. “The parents have to take a one-hour course called ‘Sportsmanship Starts in the Stands.’

The parents then have to sign a form and the team manager keeps the papers.”

There’s a lot of volunteerism around a hockey rink — but the Zamboni driver and the refs always get paid. Reffing is a job that demands accountability. Loring said he won’t refuse the cash but “I’m not really in it for the money. I love reffing — and it’s a good way to stay fit and learn about the game.”

Loring, 13, plays defence on Hope’s bantam C Wildcats. He said his grandma, Sandra Loring is a good friend of Sharrers’ mom, Barb.

“I met Jay when he was in Hope last year,” said Loring. “He came by the rink to watch the refs and give us some tips on reffing.

“One of the tips was to go through with your call — even if it’s a bad one. And be confident and have fun out there.”