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From the classroom to the ice

Referee chief Glen Leitch said he is proud of the strong crew of young officials, many of whom are returning | F.Dragon photo  

Young referees in Jasper took to the ice on Saturday to refresh their skills ahead of this year’s hockey season.

Jasper has a strong referee crew, led by referee chief Glen Leitch, and this year’s clinic had 28 officials, 24 of whom were from town.

“Our program has been in existence for a long time, and probably never more than now has it been so strong and the strength comes from the class as a group,” said Leitch.

“To me, giving back is those kids showing up.

“It’s not always easy. You hear stories about being an official and it’s true.”

Leitch tells stories of young referees being shouted at by coaches and parents, but learning to hold their own in stressful situations.

“We talk about two things: Keep it safe and keep it fair,” said Leitch.

“There are so many things we have to process and have a split second to do it.

“There are stressful situations and they need to be comfortable making a commitment the best they can. 

“They know we are going to protect them.”

Leitch has been a referee for 20 years and said Jasper has about an 80 per cent retention rate on officials and puts the strong involvement down to the culture.

“I am so proud of it,” he said.

“We have a lot of returning kids.

“The mentorship and support we give one another is brilliant.”

Leitch said the young refs learn countless life skills through their experience officiating, including patience, healthy communication and learning how to manage money from a young age thanks to their wages.

The clinic on Saturday with Hockey Alberta, led by clinic coordinator Dean Ziegler, started with a morning in the classroom learning the basics of refereeing, including rule knowledge, presentation, the benefits and negatives and what to expect.

Then in the afternoon, the teenagers hit the ice to put their skills into practise with some basic drills.

Leitch said: “Yet again it was a brilliant clinic, well attended by experienced and new kids.

“I am excited this year to see how far those kids will go because we have such a strong crew.”

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