It’s certainly not for everybody — but minor hockey referee Blake Deschenes says his is, “one of the best part-time jobs you can get, if you’re in high school.”
The 17-year-old figures he has worked in about 200 games, so far this season, in roughly equal parts as referee and linesman. To get that many games, he has had to travel to all of the rinks between Hope and Langley — and even to Richmond for a big tournament.
Deschenes played goalie through his second year of bantam but he had started reffing two years earlier. His dad, Gilbert, was a hockey ref when he was a teen and he got back into the role when his son started playing hockey.
“I decided that I enjoyed reffing more than playing,” says Deschenes, who is in his grad year at Hope Secondary.
“It’s nice to make money, instead of spending money on equipment. Goal tending can be very expensive.”
What does he like about the work?
“You get to name your own hours, for the most part. You obviously enjoy the game, so you get to spend more time with it — and it’s good exercise. We skate more than any of the players, because they get to sit down between shifts.
“It also teaches traits that employers look for,” he adds, “dealing with conflicts, handling responsibility, being in charge of people, keeping people safe, communicating tactfully and being attentive.”
He believes those attributes — and his Level 2 Industrial First Aid ticket — helped him land a job at the Bridal Falls waterslides last summer.
Deschenes’ reffing abilities have been recognized by assessors and have earned him invitations to work provincial championships for pee wee tier I, three years ago and bantam tier III last year. He also got to work at the rep-level bantam and midget international tournament in Richmond during the Christmas break.
This season, the mainstream media has had a lot of focus on abusive fans hurling insults and threats at officials, especially on Vancouver Island — and social media brought the young ref into the discussion before Christmas.
“My mom (Brenda) shared a link on Facebook about the Vancouver Island issues and I commented on it,” recalls Deschenes.
“Then she copy-pasted my comments onto the news sites at CBC and Global and they sought me out. I was interviewed by CBC radio and Global on the phone and CBC TV via Skype.”
Deschenes says he’s heard lots of negative comments from the sidelines while reffing but he perseveres through it.
“You have to remember that they’re yelling at the uniform and not at you.”
From his own experience as a player in soccer, basketball and hockey he knows where the complaints are coming from. The officials — and the Zamboni driver — are the only impartial folks in the arena, most days.
“When I play sports, I’m biased,” says Deschenes. “I like to think I’m not… but I am.”
Now more than halfway through his grad year at HSS, Deschenes has set his sights on the future.
“I’ve applied for officer training at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario,” he says. “I’m going through medical testing now and if I pass that, it could lead to a job offer.”
There’s heavy competition for the positions, he says, but he figures that his work as a referee and his honour roll status through high school should help. This year, he has a full load of academics, including chemistry and physics 12, math and calculus 12, and law and English 12.
“If I’m accepted, they pay for tuition, books and housing — and there’s a salary while I’m going to school,” says Deschenes, who would like to train as a pilot or infantry officer.
In return for four years of free schooling, students are contracted to work with the armed forces for another nine years.
“If I go to Kingston, I’ll have lots of school work — but I’d like to keep up with hockey reffing,” adds Deschenes.
“They have leagues on the base and in the community.”
Wherever he ends up next year, his time card will be full.