Brent Crawford sought a learning module to constructively fill a sizable
chunk of the off-ice, classroom content for St. Joan of Arc High School’s
Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) in Barrie, Ont.
His decision to present an online officiating clinic to his students
ultimately transcended to be effective time-filling content. Crawford, the
instructor of this Catholic high school’s HCSA since its September 2014
debut, has motivated multiple Grade 9-10 students to pursue officiating
certification. He also potentially generated a fresh access route into
Hockey Canada’s Officiating Pathway.
In a sense, the unorthodox hybrid learning schedule—a split between
in-person and remote instruction—induced by the COVID-19 pandemic paved the
way for positive developments. Instead of several moderate scheduling
blocks sprinkled throughout the school week, administrators had to get
creative and schedule nearly the entire school day to elective studies.
Crawford and his team knew fitness activities, health instruction and
lectures celebrating the rich history of Canada’s game could account for
some of the instruction away from the rink, but infusing a new ingredient
into this mix was necessary.
“An officiating clinic jumped to our minds right away, and we went online
to look up some online clinics because most of the in-person options were
closed down due to COVID,” Crawford says. “We saw some [resources], but it
was unclear if we could get the kids to do it and if any of them would be
interested in going on down the path to becoming referees.”
His instinct to contact Jeff Stewart, the director of program and events
for the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF), paid off handsomely. Stewart
connected Crawford with former NHL official Greg Kimmerly, who is currently
fulfilling a two-year term as the OHF’s referee-in-chief.
“Right off the bat, Greg was excited, and he saw the value in getting a lot
of young kids excited about officiating,” Crawford says about the initial
meeting last October. “Before long, he and his team put together six
PowerPoint presentations starting with referee initiation and working up to
learning about four-man systems and all the penalty symbols.”
According to Crawford, the St. Joan of Arc HCSA crew responded well to the
interactive features of Kimmerly’s presentations. The students were shown
multimedia of various on-ice incidents and challenged to determine how they
would approach these scenarios if they wore the zebra-stripe uniform.
Immersing in the intricacies of a fast-paced and demanding job also led to
increased player-to-referee appreciation.
While not offering an exact count, Crawford says many of his students seek
to complete Level 1 of the Hockey Canada Officiating Program (HCOP) to
attain certification and ideally volunteer within the Barrie Minor Hockey
Association in short order.
This development delights Dan Hanoomansingh, Hockey Canada’s manager of
“Officiating is an opportunity for hockey players to see the game from a
different perspective, in a way that is flexible with their busy schedules,
and earn some money,” he says. “When their competitive pathway as a player
comes to an end, they have a natural transition to stay involved in
The HCSA students are poised to enter the HCOP with confidence because
their school gives them a leg up.
Ultimately, the pilot version of the St. Joan of Arc officiating clinic
went so well that Crawford says there is a strong possibility of being
renewed for the 2022-23 academic year.
“Even as we shift back to a normal schedule next year, I am definitely
going to recommend we incorporate it again, and for all sorts of other
programs across the country, too.”
Hanoomansingh is thinking on the same wavelength as Crawford.
"The Officiating Program is always looking for individuals with skating
skills and hockey sense to join our ranks. Partnerships with our Hockey
Canada Skills Academies is a fantastic opportunity to expose these
individuals to officiating and give them an opportunity to be involved in
the game in a different way."