Not that many years ago, Shawn Oliver joined the District B Officials Association in Ottawa as a new official. This season he was hired by the American Hockey League and worked his first game on 10 March 2021. Craig MacKay of DBOA.ca was able to catch up with Shawn recently to chat about his early years in officiating and his first AHL experience. Here’s the interview:
CM: What is your hockey background and what made you decide to get into officiating Shawn?
SO: I started skating at a young age and played competitive hockey growing up. As a defenseman, I was required to skate backwards and that’s what I excelled at, this equipped me for my future in officiating. Another key factor was my old brother Liam who was an official, which gave me an inherent interest in officiating. I injured my pelvis in 2015 while playing hockey, which ended my competitive playing career and began my true passion for officiating.
CM: Do you remember your first game? Does anything stick out in your mind from that game?
SO: I do remember my first game, it was at Jim Durrell Walkley Arena in Ottawa. It was on a Saturday morning, and my on-ice buddy was Sean Tobin. He was very encouraging in my journey and helped me be optimistic about my challenges despite the nerves. One memory that sticks out to me was Sean and I observed as the puck crossed the blue line, and I neglected to blow my whistle. He looked back at me in an extremely calm tone and said “Shawn you just saw your first offside”. I later got the hang of the positioning, and Sean saw the confidence in me and gave me full responsibility for the second game. He sat in the penalty box and slurped on a slushie while I learned how to be independent on the ice.
CM: Many people start officiating, but not everyone sticks with it. What did you like about it that made you want to continue and advance through the ranks?
SO: One thing that encouraged me to stick with officiating was the positive leadership from my coaches, who often reminded me that I was doing a good job even after difficult games. It’s also a big privilege and honor to move up in officiating and perfect the craft. While gaining increased responsibility to work at higher levels with officials, I have realized that there is always more to learn and absorb from those around you.
CM: What was it like getting hired into the OHL? How did you enjoy the experience? Did you travel a lot? Who were some of the officials that you learned the most from, and what were some of those things??
SO: It was a pretty crazy experience to get the call to go to training camp for the 2019 season. I had big dreams of officiating but I did not know that the OHL was in sight at the time, therefore I was shocked but very pleased when I heard from them. I enjoyed working my first year in the OHL, specifically while working with the top officials in our country. Some of the officials I have learned the most from were the top officials in the league who had an abundance of knowledge and wisdom to share with me. My biggest recommendation for individuals going into officiating would be to be positive towards constructive criticism, and be ready to listen – there’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth.
CM: You’ve just recently had the chance to work your first game in the American League … your first game in Pro Hockey! How was it? What were the biggest differences between the O and the A?
SO: My first game went extremely well. It has been quite a while since working a game due to the pandemic, so being back on the ice was super exciting for me! I will say that players are extremely competitive, and you have to go out there and officiate to the best of your abilities to give them a fair opportunity to showcase themselves.
CM: Were there any “welcome to the show” moments? Did you have to skate the first lap by yourself like the rookie players do?
SO: The welcome to the show moment was during my rookie lap as the light show began, it was quite a surreal experience!
CM: What advice would you have for young officials just beginning their officiating journeys?
SO: My advice for the young officials would be to be persistent always, listen to the veterans, and love the process more than the end result. You never know who is watching hockey games, in my case I wasn’t notified when I was being observed, so I made sure to work every game as hard as I could. My diligence and confidence in myself paid off.
CM: Congrats Shawn on attaining this next level in officiating, and for taking the time to be part of this interview. I can safely speak for all of the DBOA past and present when I say we are all very proud of you! Great job and keep up the good work out there!
Last night in New York, the manager of the Yankees was ejected and later suspended for one game after a tirade directed at the home plate umpire. While YouTube is full of manager ejections that are often entertaining and sometimes downright hilarious (case in point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf9E1zhnFec), this one struck a chord with me and generally just didn’t give me the warm and fuzzies, as they say. I will try to explain here why.
The Sportsnet article here sums up the incident and includes some video. https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/yankees-manager-aaron-boone-suspended-tirade-umpire/
As the article states, the umpire himself was a rookie. The video shows that, yes, he blew some calls. Yes, I realize that this happened in the pros. When you get to the NHL as a referee or the majors as an umpire, you are expected to get it right. (** Although in the NHL playoffs this year we did see some pretty serious errors that changed the course of the playoffs in some cases … another blog post to come on those). People’s livelihoods (both players, managers, and officials) are on the line every day. The expectations are high.
So why am I writing about this? After almost 30 years officiating our great game of hockey, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had tirades directed at myself or my partners during a game, and I’ve witnessed outbursts towards my officials while supervising games. This outburst in the Yankees game reminds me of something I see from time to time.
Especially at the lower levels, where both the players on the ice are learning to play, and the officials on the ice are learning to officiate, the coaches sometimes take on the responsibility not only to coach the players, but to coach the officials. Coaches … please tread carefully here. While you may feel like you are helping the official get better, it can often do the opposite.
Imagine yourself as a 13 year old kid who has just been hired into our (or any) association as a new official. They have beaten out many other great candidates to get the job, based on their hockey experience, skating, rule knowledge, and other experiences that pertain to the role. They have been through their clinic, passed their Hockey Canada Officiating Program exam, have done multiple on ice training sessions with supervisors, and now they are out there, refereeing a real hockey game. In their first few months they are just starting to figure out positioning, their signals, how to follow the play, how to stay out of the way but be in position to see, and so much more. It is a lot to take in, not to mention dealing one of the largest and most complex rule books in sports. There are approximately a million things running through their heads as they try to figure this out, and call the best game that they can, so the players can play.
Now take all that, and add into the equation an adult person, many years older than them, larger than them, and louder than them. Then add another 2 feet to their height because they are standing on top of the players bench and looking down at them. Now this person is yelling for an offside at the moment it happens, without the official even having a millisecond to make the decision themselves. I say yelling because most coaches are yelling, not because they want to yell at the referee, but because they end up developing loud voices whether they like it or not, from trying for the 1000th time to get little Johnny or little Jane to come to the bench for a line change. Then they are telling the referee that they missed a penalty in the corner, “That was a body check, that’s a penalty”. Again, maybe not “yelling”, but to the official, it often seems like it. To the coach, they’re trying to help. To the official, it’s intimidating.
When I watch the video of the Yankees manager, I feel like in his head, he actually thinks he is helping that umpire get better. The fact is, the umpire is in the major leagues, and he will be reviewing the video from his entire game. He will know that he blew those calls, and he will not be happy with himself. The league supervisors will work with him on positioning or sight lines or whatever it is that umpires do to get better. It’s not the tirade directed at him that makes him better, it’s the process that he was going to go through anyway, because he’s a professional.
Now back to our 13 year old. Instead of this “coaching” from the bench helping them, it hurts their confidence. They start second guessing themselves and going in the wrong direction. Instead of going on instinct and their training, they are waiting for the reaction of the coach. Eventually they tend to not want to blow the whistle at all, and quit. (** The number of officials who officiate for 1 year and don’t return, are huge).
We conducted somewhere around a thousand supervisions in District B last year. We don’t have a supervisor at every game, but odds are that if your team is playing, there’s a reasonable chance that there is a supervisor in the stands, with goal of helping make the officials better. Let them make mistakes. Let them learn from them. Coach your players, and please let us coach the refs.
Craig MacKay, DBOA Director of Supervisions (& Web Stuff)
dboa.ca had the chance to sit down with Daniel Wong-Fung recently as part of our latest “Official Profile” segment. Daniel is always a pleasure to work with due to his great work ethic on the ice, always having his partner’s backs, great sense of humor, and always bringing snacks for the crew. Lots of that shines through in the interview below. He was also honored this year as the first recipient of the Daniel R Spence Memorial Award. So without further ado …
How long have you been officiating hockey and what made you want to start?
I’ve been an official for about 7 or 8 years. I have been in DBOA for about 4 years, and before that I started when I was 13 in a small town called Newcastle (about an hour east of Toronto). I actually started timekeeping at the age of 11, and Newcastle only had like 6 or 7 refs so I was forced to become an official at 13. I didn’t want to be a referee, but they forced me into it. I think I might have even cried, like it was some sort of punishment or execution. Long story short, I still referee today, so it looks like it wasn’t the worst decision.
Do you have any tips for other officials?
In the dressing room, put your phone down (unless there’s trades on Horizon), and just try to have a conversation with your partners. Talk about food, sports, your cats, or whatever you want. I just find it helps to develop bonds in the dressing room. If you have a bond with someone off the ice, you’ll likely have a much better bond on the ice.
What do you think of the Daniel Spence Memorial Award? Any stories?
I think it’s great we created this award. We should all strive to be more like Daniel, on and off the ice. He was one of the most professional and hardworking guys on the ice, but then after the games, was one of the most laid back and easy to talk to. He was the perfect balance between the two, and one of the guys I always looked forward to being on games with.
When I first started as an official in DBOA, I didn’t have a car and had to bus all the time to games. I once had a game at Brian Kilrea with Daniel Spence, and it was my first game with him. As any officials that take the bus know, that rink is terrible to bus too. Our games finished at 10pm and Daniel offered to give me a ride to the nearest bus stop. It was pretty terrible snow that night. Instead of dropping me off at the bus stop, he drove me all the way home in Westboro. He lived in the South End. He didn’t need to do that, but did. I had just met him that night. He was that type of guy.
What are your favourite stories from working hockey games?
Once I had games from 6pm to 9pm at Canturbury. I didn’t have time to go home between games so I went to the St. Laurent Mall. I got there at 4pm though. So I had a full meal at Manchu Wok, but then because I had more time, I had another full meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Spoiler alert, that was a big mistake. Before the game, and inbetween floods, I barfed a lot. Mike Ostrom and Chad Scanlan were with me. We all had quite a chuckle. I also did all the games, and didn’t bail. That was a fun night.
Earlier this year, I was doing the tournament in Kanata at Cavanagh Sensplex. I believe I was with Shawn Corcoran and Ryan Stasiuk. I had the bands and was in the corner of the end zone. A kid took a slap shot that bounced off the post and almost smoked me in the head. I managed to dodge the puck like the Matrix and live to referee another day. I’m unsure where the puck is, so I look at my linesmen, and they’re both barrelled over on the blue line laughing at me for almost dying.
What are your officiating goals for the future?
I’m already living the dream. I’m a professional Midget B house league official. Perhaps in the future, I’m looking to get my rankings demoted in the B competitive scene. One can dream.
Here’s evidence of Daniel helping keep his partners fully energized!
Tyler Glenn was this year’s recipient of the DBOA’s prestigious Rookie of the Year award. DBOA.ca had a chance to sit down with him recently for an exclusive interview. Here’s how it went down…
Late April means the minor hockey season is wrapping up, the snow is finally melting, and it’s time for the DBOA Annual General Meeting! Officials gather each year to bid each other a good summer, debate wording of our constitution, enjoy a few snacks, and recognize our award winners for the season past!
A few of our award winners are featured below. Be on the lookout over the summer for some “Official Profiles” where we will go more in depth with our winners, to find out more about how they got into officiating, what they love about it, and more!
Brandy Beecroft, DBOA Director of Discipline, handing out the Locker Room Vet award to Paul Mallette:
Fred Cosgrove, DBOA Referee in Chief, handing out the Helping Hand award to Dan Arbuckle:
Director of Supervisions, Mike Ostrom, and DBOA Official Brad Spence, handing out the first annual Daniel R Spence Memorial Award to Daniel Wong-Fung:
Unavailable to join us for the AGM were Ethan Greene, winner of the Official of the Year award, and Tyler Glenn, winner of the Rookie of the Year award.
Not long after the AGM, Hockey Eastern Ontario announced the winners of the Officiating Branch Awards. The selection pool for these awards is not only officials across District B, but officials all across HEO. We were proud to have one of our DBOA officials honoured, Abbey McMillian, as Most Promising Official in HEO.
Congrats to all the winners!
A group of newer DBOA officials gathered at Richcraft Sensplex this week for some advanced instruction from some of the HEO’s Officiating Program’s top brass. Classroom sessions included technical details surrounding the role of both linesmen and referees, communication with your partners on the ice, rule emphasis, and game management. The on ice portion involved some skating drills followed by a demonstration and discussion on how to best communicate with the player’s bench (calmly and respectfully), while also preparing officials for how to address any verbal abuse and or disrespectful actions from bench staff.
Game 1 of the Black and White game is complete with Team White easily winning 7-1. Captain of the Black team Shawn Corcoran could not be reached for comment.
As with every season, first year officials jump on the ice for the very first time with their mentor and a senior official to experience a novice or atom hockey game. It is an exciting time, yet a lot of nerves and pressures.
Well the same thing occurs in year two when officials wear the bands for their first time, except with no mentor following them around the ice! There is much more pressure leading the game as the head referee, but the experience is one should never turn away.
On October 21st, we had a crew consisting of Hailey Perreault, Ryan MacPherson, and Don Stewart. What was so special about this crew? Don having years of experience, and as well as being a supervisor, was the only one of the 3 to ever wear the bands! For Ryan and Hailey were both about the experience their first games as the head ref. Ryan worked the 4pm Peewee B game, while Hailey did the 5pm Peewee C game.
Hailey on her first game called a too many players on the ice call, and Ryan demonstrated excellent positioning in the end zone.
“I thought my first game went really well. It was nice knowing I had the support of my partners and supervisors in attendance” says Hailey. “I like reffing because it’s a great way to stay involved in hockey now that I’ve graduated out of minor hockey.”
“I love reffing because I have played hockey since I was four and love being out on the ice, whether as a player or an official. Its a great way for me to stay involved in something I truly enjoy” mentioned Ryan. “I really enjoyed my first game. I liked it more than doing lines because it is a lot more skating and you are (almost) always moving. I was a little nervous at the start of the game, but as the game progressed I became more comfortable with the positioning.”
These two officials were in great hands with Don on the lines. Don brought a wealth of knowledge and helpful hints for the two rookie referee’s throughout the game.
Great work everyone!
The District B Officials Association would like to congratulate fellow referee Brandon Bourgeois for making the American Hockey League team of officials!
Brandon has been with the DBOA for a number of years, even helping out on the executive, and as a mentor/supervisor. He will once again be helping out this season as a supervisor, so some of our officials will be seen by an AHL official!
Congrats Brandon! Do us proud!