Credit: Kevin Sousa Photography
Officials perform a vital role in the game. At all levels, they are the third team on the ice, without whom the game would not happen. Referees can sometimes unfairly be a target of yelling from players, parents, and coaches alike but thinking about how the game looks from the other side is important and provides some perspective on what it takes to be an official.
Dave Wedlake, Chair of the OMHA Referee Program joined the Breakaway Podcast to discuss the role of the official. He’s been with the program since joining as a 14-year-old and has worked with new and old officials ever since.
Becoming a referee is a great way for young players to give back to the sport as they start to grow out of minor hockey. It’s a perfect fit for a first time job, combining an already existing passion with the ability to earn some money as well.
“I think what I like to say to any young hockey player who’s still playing at any level, whether it’s competitive or house league, that there are other opportunities outside of playing that could be afforded to you by getting into the officiating program… here’s an opportunity to stay in the game,” said Wedlake.
The players that make the best officials according to Wedlake are ones that understand the game, the role of each individual, see the game a little bit differently than the average player, understand the rules but more importantly know when to apply them in what situations. It’s about having a great feel for the game.
“I think the quality of any good official is the ability to communicate at all levels, whether it’s with players, team officials, fellow officials. Certainly understanding the rules and some of the complexities that are attached to those rules. Understanding that we have a responsibility to create a fair and safe environment and knowing when you have to put all that aside and make that tough call regardless of the outcome.”
Unnoticed to many, there is a referee group that is in charge of training and supervising officials both new and old. There are185 supervisors in the OMHA, critiquing and working to create best product on the ice.
Supervisors are placed in local areas, working with group of officials over the season across house league and rep in a mentorship role.
The best way for officials to develop and learn? Like the players themselves, it’s about getting the reps.
“Experience is something you can’t teach. Every time you do a game on any different night, that’s part of the experience process. It’s imperative to take as many assignments as you can, experience all different opportunities and situations. That can only enhance the overall product on the ice for the official.”