Referee shortage hurting minor hockey, official says

A shortage of referees seen in minor hockey associations across Canada, including in Dawson Creek, makes holding games and tournaments more and more challenging, according to local hockey's head referee Adam Loroff.

"Without officials you don't have hockey games," said the referee in chief for Dawson Creek Minor Hockey.

"Every year it seems to get harder and harder to recruit new officials and keep officials coming back," adds Loroff.

Without the right on-ice personnel, the DCMHA struggles to hold games and host tournaments, and are often times forced to hire referees from other towns.

"It has happened where games have been cancelled but the big issue is tournaments," said Loroff. "For the older kids we usually have to bring in officials to help out just because we don't have the numbers to do it. It's either that or cancel games, so it costs a few extra bucks to bring people from out of town but keeps the games going and keeps everybody on the ice."

It's because younger officials aren't staying involved as they get older, that the DCMHA is forced to look elsewhere for 'stripes' to officiate bantam (under-15) and midget (under-18) games, where more highly certified refs are needed.

"If you can't develop the younger guys, then over the years you start to lose officials capable of refereeing higher levels of hockey," explained Loroff.

Therefore, the DCMHA will be holding their annual officials' clinic this weekend and are urging anyone ages 12-years old and older to attend the Saturday instruction period. It will be open to all newcomers, as well as serve as a refresher course for already pre-existing Level 1 (ages 12-15) and Level 2 (16 and older) referees.

Loroff added that becoming an official is a great way to stay active, while "making a few extra bucks."

And while the DCMHA is urging more to get involved, it's on the coaches, parents and players to respect the referee's role before there are none left.

As the city's head official with nearly 20 years experience, Loroff says the primary cause of referees being discouraged from officiating is because of abuse from coaches, players and parents.

B.C. Hockey also states that "unacceptable parent behaviour" is the number one reason cited by coaches, managers and officials of all ages for "leaving a sport."

From his perspective, Loroff says he has seen a rise in tolerance of officials, but it's a part of the game he feels will always exist.

"I'd say there has been improvement over the last few years but it's something that is always going to be there and you're never going to be able to totally get rid of it," said Loroff. "As long as the refs go out there knowing they did the best they can then that's really all they can do."

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