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Local referee embracing his role despite hockey officials shortage

'I would not want to see any games get cancelled so it is frustrating seeing that but I help out where I can and I know all the officials that are on our staff do the same'
20211124 Darren Long
Darren Long reffing a November 17 game in Powassan between the Voodoos and Kirkland Lake Gold Miners. Photo by Chris Dawson/BayToday.

Some days Darren Long wishes he could have an easy hockey officiating schedule of perhaps two games a week. 

But the 44-year-old veteran referee and linesman is busier than ever this fall. 

On Friday, November 12, was an example of the very busy schedule hockey officials are enduring this year. 

"Friday it was Women's OUA Hockey [Lakers], then I run over to Pete Palangio for a pair of house league games that would have been cancelled had I not accepted them," admitted Long. 

"Saturday it was a house league game in Powassan followed by a U15 game in Powassan as well. On Sunday, I had to be a linesman for the 2 p.m. Battalion game."  

This financial advisor at Edward Jones by day and hockey official by night estimates that referee and linesman staffing in the North Bay area is down at least 50 per cent from the Pre-COVID days.  

"Games are getting cancelled," he said.  

"A lot of games that are supposed to be three or four-man system are going to three or two-man system because they just do not have enough officials and it is hard to see games getting cancelled because I can remember when I played midget [U18], peewee [U13] and atom [U11] and I would not want to see any games get cancelled so it is frustrating seeing that, but I help out where I can and I know all the officials that are on our staff do the same." 

This army brat who got certified as an official back in 1990 when he was living in Victoria, B.C., believes the hockey community is starting to recognize and respect the officials more.

"I will tell you since COVID-19, I find we are getting a lot of coaches, and a lot of players and even fans that are coming up to us after the game and saying, 'thank you for being here,' so I think they are understanding that maybe their actions on and off the ice are not the best and they are realizing that we are losing officials because of it," admitted Long.  

Long believes that was not the case before people recognized the shortage. 

"Before COVID-19 I think what happened was there were a lot of coaches, players and fans that would scream and yell and dispute calls with officials and I have thick skin because I have been doing it for so long. and I know a lot of senior officials have thick skin," stated Long.

"The issue you have is when you have younger people, younger kids 15 to 18 years old coming up to officiate and they are getting screamed and yelled at I can see why younger officials would quit the game." 

The veteran local official still loves to give back to the game and does not plan on hanging up his whistle anytime soon. 

"I think the fact that I played the game, I have done it for a long time; I think I have a lot of respect because of being around so long for refereeing," he said.  

"The other thing is being physically fit for my age. I think that is important as well. We need to stay in the best shape just like the players and obviously, we need to know the rules. Those are two things we can control and I think that is how I gained respect out there."

Long hopes he can inspire other young officials to want to follow his path. 

"The biggest piece of advice is you have to have thick skin and to try to ignore the parents, the coaches when they are upset with a call because at the end they are trying to win a hockey game so they are not going to agree with all your calls," noted Long.  

"I think the best is to make sure you know your rules, make sure that you are giving 110 per cent all the time you are out there and I think if you are doing that part then that will help you out a lot."

Despite his age, Long believes he learns from every game he officiates. He hopes young officials work hard and want to get better just like hockey players do on the ice.  

"My message to kids would be if you want to help and better the game we are always looking for people," noted Long. 

"I know that Hockey Canada is always looking for officials and I think when you get into Peewee, Bantam and Midget if you are really wanting to continue with the game and get to some higher levels of hockey, we are always looking for officials." 

For more information on officiating within the Northern Ontario Hockey Association, please click HERE 





Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with BayToday.ca 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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