Kevin is a recently retired OHA official from the Brantford region, where he resides with his wife Lory and daughters Elle (8) and Paige (4). He was born and raised in Strathroy, Ontario. Kevin played his minor hockey in Strathroy, inside the West Middlesex Memorial, and that’s where his career as an on-ice official began, and ended.
I personally have known Kevin for about 30 years, as my brother Mike played minor hockey with him. After his retirement game at the WMMA on February 27, Kevin agreed to answer some questions about this officiating career and reasons for retirement.
Q. Did you go to school? For what?
A. I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor in Business Administration with a Major in Marketing and a Minor in Political Science. I also have a Masters of Business Administration from the Odette School of Business at the University of Windsor.
Q. You were a goalie when you played. Why did you become a goalie?
A. I have absolutely no clue! In hindsight, it was a bit of a crazy move, however, being a goalie definitely improved my vision on the ice as an official. As a goalie, you are constantly using your peripheral vision to locate players or the puck and you are used to seeing the entire game and plays develop in front of you. This made the transition to officiating easier and I definitely benefitted from it.
Q.What is the highest level that you played?
A. I played three seasons of Jr. D (now the SOJHL) for the North Middlesex Stars and the Belmont Bombers before going to university. I was also a callup backup goalie for one Jr. B game for the Alymer Aces against the Strathroy Rockets.
Q.How did you get into officiating?
A. I ran in the time clock for Strathroy minor hockey for a number of years and some of my friends started to referee games while I was working in the timeclock. I noticed the money that they were making, which was more than I was making as a time keeper, and I figured that I could easily be a referee with them. So in 1994, I wrote my referee exam, passed, and the rest is history, as they say.
Q. How long have you been an official?
A. I started in 1994-95 with the Ontario Minor Hockey Association and in the 2002-03 season, I was hired by the OHA. I have 22 seasons as an official, 14 within the OHA.
Q. What level referee are you and how do you move up the ranks in the OHA?
A. I am a certified Level 5 (of 6) Referee for Hockey Canada. Moving up the ranks in the OHA is no different than in business. In the OHA, everyone starts as a linesman. Depending on the official’s desire, skill set, location where they live and the opportunity, they may become a referee at some point in their career. Not everyone wants to or has the ability to become a referee. We have some very, very good linesman that are happy to just be a linesman. Some officials move through the ranks quicker than others because they are simply really good at how they manage a hockey game. There are some linesman who want to become a referee, but because of numbers, you can only have so many referees, they get stuck being a linesman longer that they prefer. When I relocated from Strathroy to Brantford, I was a linesman for the most part and had only been a referee for 6 games in the OHA, but there was an opening for a referee and I was given the opportunity.
Q. Where do you ref?
A. I currently referee out of the Brantford region of the OHA. We cover a lot of different leagues including the Golden Horseshoe and the Midwest Conference of the GOJHL. I also cover the Midwest, Niagara District and sometimes the SOJHL Junior C Leagues.
Q. In Jr. C, they have the 3 man ref system, whereas in the GOJHL we have the 4 man system. What’s the difference in officiating each style?
A. This is probably the hardest question to answer. In my opinion, there are benefits and drawbacks to each system. The 3 man system allows the single referee to call his style of game and his standard may slightly deviate from other officials. That being said, with the changes in the game and the speed of today’s game there is a greater opportunity to miss goals and penalties which is not fair to the teams. The 4 man system allows the officials to be in a better position to see the entire game with less effort. You now have 2 sets of eyes on the game and there is a significantly reduced chance of missed goals and penalties. That being said, the 4 man system takes some constant adjustments as a referee. You quickly realize how the game is going to go depending on your partner. Some guys, you just click with and every game you do with them is a pleasure and feels good. Other partners, it feels like a chess match, with each referee making their own moves and decisions in an effort to get to the end of the game with a fair outcome for both teams. These types of games can be a challenge, but help you grow as an official.
Q. What is the hardest part of being an official?
A. The hardest part about officiating is the things that you miss out on. While the OHA is pretty flexible in terms of your scheduling, there is no doubt that you will miss birthday parties, outings and last minute events with friends and family. It is a sacrifice that we all make, but it is a challenge at times. The game itself is not that difficult, but there are times when you need to make a tough call or a call that you don’t necessarily want to make, but as long as you realize that you are just applying the rules of the game to keep the players safe, it is pretty easy to do.
Q. What do you enjoy about being an official?
A. I enjoy being part of the game of hockey. I have been at the rink since I was 4 years old as a player, a coach, working the time clock, volunteering and officiating. Hockey, by choice, has been a huge part of my life. I enjoy going to the rink, hanging out with the guys, interacting with the players and coaches. I have met a lot of really, really good people through the game of hockey. I am going to miss the other officials because it truly is like a brotherhood.
Q.Why are you retiring?
A. The main reason that I am retiring is that next year I am probably becoming the next President of the Ontario Rett Syndrome Association (O.R.S.A.). I am currently the President Elect and Chair of the Marketing Committee. This new role is going to consume a significant amount of free time and didn’t feel that it would be fair to the association or the OHA if I were to try and do both, only to compromise the quality of work for each. Ref4Rett will continue into the future, but I still have a full time job and responsibilities as a husband and father that I was also not willing to compromise. I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life where I won’t be making a difference on the ice, but hope to be making a significant difference in the lives of so many people impacted by Rett syndrome.
Q.What is Rett Syndrome?
A. Our daughter Elle was diagnosed in October 2012 with Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by the loss of spoken language and hand use, coupled with the development of distinctive hand stereotypes. This disorder is seen in infancy and occurs almost exclusively in females. It is usually caused by a mutation of the MECP2 gene on the X chromosome. Rett syndrome is found in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world. It affects one in every ten thousand live female births. Early developmental milestones appear normal, but between 6-18 months of age, there is a delay or regression in development, particularly affecting speech, hand skills and gait. A hallmark of Rett syndrome is repetitive hand movements that may become almost constant while awake. Other more common medical issues encountered include epileptic seizures, muscle stiffness, osteoporosis and scoliosis. Despite its multiple handicaps, Rett syndrome is not a degenerative disease. Many individuals with Rett syndrome live long into adulthood. There is currently no cure.
Q. Final thanks
A. Over the course of 22 seasons you have the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the game of hockey. There are so many that I need to thank because they have helped me develop not only as an official but also as a human being. From fellow officials to supervisors, I learned a lot about the game of hockey and life in general. There are a lot of transferrable skills that officiating has taught me that have helped me personally and professionally outside of the arena. The game has given me so much, especially with all the support that Ref4Rett has received. Without this support, Lory and I would not have been able to raise over $160,000 in 4 years for the Ontario Rett Syndrome Association. For this, I am truly thankful!
As mentioned at the top, Kevin is originally from Strathroy and played all of his minor hockey inside the WMMA and it’s where his career as an official began. His first Jr. B game as a referee was in Strathroy at the WMMA. I don’t remember the specific date or the game, during the retirement ceremony they said that we were playing Tecumseh, but I recall that our officials were on their way from Sarnia and got stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. Kevin just happened to be in town and was available to referee so that we could play our game. His career became full circle when it was completed on February 27, 2016, at the WMMA, where he took his final lap around the rink as an official.
I want to thank Kevin for taking the time to answer these questions and I wish him and his family all the best.
Photo Credit: Colleen Wiendells