How did you get into refereeing ice hockey?
It started with a group of friends really! I was playing at the time and a bunch of my friends on the team were also officials and thought I would be good at it, maybe it was because I was taking a lot of penalties, so they thought I should give it a crack but the rest is history. I did both for a while but officiating took precedence and it’s been a good while since I picked up a stick.
Do you feel that being a woman in this ‘rough sport’ puts you at a disadvantage?
I grew up in a small town, so we only did mixed teams and in Canada there’s no contact until maybe 10 years old (at the time) so in the beginning it didn’t really matter. Later I was targeted as a female, the easy target for opponent thinking they could hit me and take me out, but I had great teammates who always had my back and stood up for me if needed. If I wanted to play mixed though I had to learn how to stand for myself and how to not get demolished during a game…
Do you feel as respected and accepted as your male colleagues?
I was the first female referee in the Alberta junior league, so there were quite a few barriers to break. Player or referee you always have to prove yourself on the ice, so you have to gain players’ and coaches’ respect. I saw some officials automatically had the respect that I had to earn. When officiating at junior level people definitely came to me more than my male colleagues when they wanted to complain or scream to see if I would budge… I didn’t.
There is one other female that joined the league this year and hopefully there are more to follow suit in the coming years. We always see an uptake in ice hockey after the Olympics, which is exciting but now there are other barriers to entry, such as cost and location.
How does one get to officiate in the Olympics?
You have to move through the ranks and always need to be on top of your game. You need to be identified locally as an up-and-comer, then provincially, then the national body needs to license you for IIHF and then you get your name in the hat by officiating various events all over the world. I’ve officiated the IIHF Women’s Worlds U18 (under 18) Championship in Russia, Czech Republic and USA, gold medal games in the 4-Nations Cup and world women’s championship in Espoo (Finland)…
This was my first time officiating the Olympics, it’s the pinnacle of officiating, the ultimate goal. I think it was quite different from the previous years due to Covid – daily tests, being in a bubble, lockdown… .. I’d definitely love to go again!
The slogan for this year’s IWD is #breakthebias. We see you as a role model, is there any advice you would give women who want to be successful in a male-dominated environment?
I guess I see myself as a role-model, especially in officiating… I was the first female referee in a league after all. I’ll always give back to the sport and so I always give back to the community.
As for advice, if you belong somewhere, you belong. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, you have the right to be there as much as anyone else. The glass ceiling is shattering. There are brilliant people in places they are meant to be. Hard work and determination is how they got there. Don’t fall victim to ‘woe is me’ mindset, think about what you want to achieve and what is it going to take to get you there. What you want and how high you want to go is up to you – gender should never be your barrier to success.
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