Blake Deschenes poses with his fellow Hope Minor Hockey officials (left to right) Jacob Druet

Hope’s latest hockey prodigy chooses reffing instead

Hope’s next official looking for advancement, Blake Deschenes, has already seen the impact of reffing on his off-ice pursuits.

Hope Minor Hockey has seen a number of its players progress into high-level rep, junior, university, national and pro ranks. Jeff Hoggan, who played 107 games in the NHL and many years in the American Hockey League, is Hope’s most celebrated success in the sport… at least as a player.

When you put aside the stick and pull on a striped jersey, though, there’s another path to high-level hockey for those who want it — as an official.

Jay Sharrers started out as a player for Hope Minor Hockey but made the switch to reffing in his teen years and has now completed his 26th season as an official in the NHL. His brother Matt also had a few years of reffing in the junior ranks, after playing for the Canadian national team.

Hope Secondary grad of 1998, David Jones followed the example of Sharrers and Darrin Martindale and carved his own career in the sport, working 750 games as an official in the AHL and East Coast League.

“Darrin worked the WHL,” said Jones, Tuesday, from his home in Sugar Hill, Ga. “He, in addition to Jay Sharrers, was who I looked up to in hockey. Darrin also worked the BCJHL. He was a stud linesman for many years. I always went to see him at Chiefs games.”

Jones said he appreciated Martindale’s willingness to take on minor hockey assignments, even when he had made it into the higher-level leagues.

“Young kids need role models,” he explained. “I watched Darrin work a Chiefs game on a Friday and then a midget house game Saturday in Hope. That is what inspired me to believe that my advancement was realistic.

“Officiating hockey can’t be forced,” he added. “It’s a personal choice that one has to desire to do.

“Jay always told me to enjoy the journey. He was so right. It’s easy to be laser focused on your goal and forget all the fun the journey is. You likely won’t make it to the NHL but you’re going to meet great people on your journey and make friends for life.

“Hockey has been and continues to be a vehicle for me to be successful in life.”

Hope’s next official looking for advancement, Blake Deschenes, has already seen the impact of reffing on his off-ice pursuits.

“Reffing is a huge asset on any resume,” he said, Monday. “I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been in a job interview and they ask a question and I can relate it directly back to a situation I’ve been in on the ice.”

The 19-year-old is headed into his second year of criminology studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, with career hopes in policing or border services. If the hockey officiating turns into a career or a secondary career, he’s good with that.

“I just love being out there and working the best hockey I can,” he said. “I’d love to make a career of it but I see myself being a part of hockey for many years to come.

“My assignments from last year ranged from atom to juvenile, so 10 to 20-year-olds,” he recalled. “I worked both bantam tier one and juvenile provincial championships, multiple tournament finals — and I was selected to officiate at the BC Officiating Program of Excellence camp, where I refereed the final games of the U16 team BC tryouts. During the year, I worked games from Vancouver to Lillooet.”

Deschenes first put on the stripes in 2009, in his second year of peewee hockey. It’s been steady progress since then, with hundreds of games worked — and attendance at many summer camps, often underwritten by scholarships through Hope Minor Hockey.

“I’ve attended the Kozari Officiating School in Penticton and the OPOE camp in Shawnigan Lake and I’m currently attending the West Coast Prep Referee school in Port Alberni.”

He’s attended the Western Canadian Referee School in Langley — but this year, he switched from being a student to being an instructor. Four young locals, sponsored by Hope Minor Hockey, also attended the camp.

“This was my first time formally coaching referees in a classroom environment,” he said. “I enjoyed every second of working with the young officials there. I was offered the position by one of the two head instructors Ron Dietterle, who was a mentor for me when I first began reffing. I actually attended the same camp when I had finished my first year of reffing, so it’s come full circle.

“This past year I was a supervisor for both Hope Minor Hockey and the Fraser Valley — and I’ve assisted at camps in the past.

“For the OPOE camp, I was selected with seven other individuals who have been recognized for having an aptitude to officiate high level hockey,’ said Deschenes.

“I’m hoping to be working a full schedule of above minor hockey games, from major midget to junior A. I’ll also be continuing in my supervisory role and am hoping to promote some young local officials to get opportunities at provincial championships.”