Hockey season is still more than a month away, but the Thorold Hockey Referee Association (THRA) is ringing the alarm bell because they don’t have enough refs for the upcoming season.
“We had 30 officials going into COVID-19, we dropped down to nine—it was a significant loss,” says the president of the THRA, Franco Meffe, in an interview with ThoroldToday.
The lack of referees is a complicated issue because games in the upcoming season will be played in two different locations: at the Frank Doherty Arena and the Canada Summer Games Park.
“We would try to schedule games in the Doherty and the Whyte one after the other so our referees could go across the hallway,” Meffe says. “We won’t have that luxury anymore so we might at times be running two crews: one at Doherty and one at Canada Games Park. But we need more officials in order to do that.”
To find new referees, the THRA has banded together with Thorold Minor Hockey. Meffe says the team-up feels like a natural fit because the association is mostly looking for younger referees, 14 years old and up.
“We look for entry-level officials for obvious reasons,” says Meffe. “We want them to stay with us for a number of years. There’s a lot of minor hockey at a younger age level so the 14-year-olds do a lot of the eight-nine-ten-year-old refereeing.”
When it comes to being a referee, one of the most important qualities is having a thick skin.
“When you’re a hockey official you’re not really working for any people that are there so to speak, but they all have an opinion on how you’re doing,” Meffe says. “That includes coaches, players, and parents.”
Younger referees usually get paired up with a mentor to help them navigate the ice, but Meffe says it’s important for referees to get out there themselves.
“We talk to the kids a lot to go out and get a relationship with the coach and staff right from the get-go,” he says. “You’ll see a world of difference because there’s a lot of good coaches and a lot of good parents who are understanding and see that it’s a 14 or 15-year-old out there. Eventually you get to know each other and it’s a lot harder to yell at somebody when you like them.”
Other important qualities for referees are athleticism and a knowledge of the rules.
“I’ve been reffing for over 25 years and there’s always something I find in that rule book where I’m like: ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’” says Meffe.
Referees get paid according to Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) standards, but Meffe highlights that there are some costs associated with becoming a referee, and that the THRA does expect a significant time commitment.
“We’re just trying to get people interested,” says Meffe. “The nice thing for us is that it’s a part-time casual gig for people. We’re just hoping people will find an interest in it and give back to the community and make sure that youth in Thorold and teams that come from out of town have officials to play their games.”
To find out more on how to apply, head over to the THRA’s website.