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Longtime official hangs up his referee whistle

'A lot of people are screaming because of their heart and not their head so so don't take it personally. Stay calm, somebody has to stay calm in the situation'
2022 03 28 tim foster
Tim Foster makes a call during his last minor hockey game as an on-ice official. Photo courtesy Facebook.

After nearly 54 years of on-ice hockey officiating, Tim Foster will be calling it a career.  

Foster officiated his final game; a U11 playoff game at Pete Palangio arena on Sunday afternoon.  

"I went out this year and it was a really good season," said the longtime official. 

"I probably did close to 100 games this year and I really had no issues this year. One of the things I noticed when I was doing minor hockey. We always had the complaint that young officials did not stick around because of the yelling and screaming of the fans. I don't know if it is because they have had to cancel so many games because of no referees or what, but I found I did not hear any of the yelling. It is either they are not yelling or I am going deaf. It seems so much better."

That final game was ironically on the 25th anniversary of when he retired from officiating in the Ontario Hockey League. Back when he officiated, Stan Butler was an up-and-coming OHL coach and the North Bay team was called the Centennials.  

While it was many years ago, Foster still recalls that first game he officiated at the tender age of 10. 

"I'll give you a sweater, a whistle, and 25 cents," he recalls being told by the referee-in-chief after his hockey practice. 

"Every two minutes they would hit the buzzer to switch and that was my last hockey game. I refereed in Cochrane for the first 14 years of my refereeing and I did up to Intermediate A (Senior Men's)." 

Foster knows a lot has changed since that morning in Cochrane back in the late 1960s. 

"The biggest change is a penalty, is a penalty, is a penalty now," said Foster. 

"Back in the day when I refereed, I have recognized that there is now less game management in the game today. If you remember back in the Centennials games how many fights there were in a hockey game - anywhere from three to half-a-dozen fights and there was a lot more hooking and holding and stuff like that. But back then they asked, 'Was there an impact or was it taking away a scoring opportunity?' Now it doesn't matter where it happens on the ice, you put a hook on somebody, you are going to the penalty box.

"There are not many penalties in hockey games anymore because we have called it the way they have changed it to, and it is a lot safer game now. It is a lot better and faster." 

He says there are life lessons that go with officiating hockey. 

"Don't take things personally," he says about young referees. 

"A lot of people are screaming because of their heart and not their head, so so don't take it personally. Stay calm, somebody has to stay calm in the situation."

However, Foster says one of the biggest impacts on his officiating career was when he became a police officer.  

"One of the best things that helped me with my officiating was becoming a police officer. I had refereed 14 years before I became a policeman and when I became a police officer it totally changed my outlook on officiating a hockey game. I was so nervous before about making a mistake and so worried about what people thought, and then I became a policeman and I was refereeing the game of life and realized that hockey was a game," he said. 

Foster, whose son TJ also officiated in the Ontario Hockey League, believes officials need to work hard at being a good official, especially if they want respect from players, coaches, and fans.  

"Work hard because if you work hard in whatever you do, people might not be happy but they realize you are working hard," said Foster, who is also a Deacon at the Diocese of Pembroke. 

"So if you are a young referee going out, do the best you can, work hard at it, learn the rules, skate when you are out there and if you make a mistake they can at least see you are working at it. But if you are out there with your hands in your pockets and you don't look like you want to be there, they just want to collect the money - they have the right almost to yell and scream because you are not putting in the effort. 

"I made a lot of mistakes during my refereeing career but I know guys would always say to me that I was fair, you did the best you could, but overall I am happy with what you do."

Another veteran area official, Darren Long, recognized his longtime friend, mentor coach and supervisor. 

"Tim Foster has been such a positive influence on me personally, professionally and in officiating hockey since 1995," said Long on social media. 

"It is hard to believe I have known Tim for 27 years. Today was the day he skated his last hockey game as an official. Congratulations on a 52+ year career as a hockey official. Enjoy retirement and looking forward to continuing to see you at the rinks. Enjoy quality time with family and friends Tim." 

While the on-ice officiating is over for Foster, he says he will continue to be a NOHA supervisor official mentoring young men and women in stripes.  He also will continue working as an off-ice official during North Bay Battalion hockey games.   

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Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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