2022  i w d  o h f female officials main

Officiating is for the girls

A handful of talented women are making their mark on high-performance hockey across Northern Ontario

Lindsay Morell – Northern Ontario Hockey Association
March 19, 2022

The landscape of high-performance hockey officials has historically been dominated by men, but a number of elite women in Northern Ontario are breaking the mould and proving they can find success in high-performance leagues all over Ontario.

In the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL), there has been an increase of women in stripes in the last few years, and that trend looks to be continuing. The NOHA had the chance to speak with two of its phenomenal officials, Brandy Dewar-Beecroft of Sault Ste. Marie and Joelle Ouellette of Sudbury, to discuss what officiating means for them as they break through the barriers of working junior hockey.

Brandy grew up playing minor hockey in Sault Ste. Marie, and began officiating as a way to earn some extra money. She soon grew to love being on the lines, and continued working her way up the ladder as she attended Brock University. Brandy found the key to making the transition from player to referee was learning what situations like icings looked like from different perspectives on the ice—and learning the rulebook inside and out.

Joelle’s first hockey coach was her father, and she also transitioned to officiating out of playing minor hockey in Sudbury. The Sudbury officiating community immediately took Joelle under its wing, and she felt like she gained a new family who were always there to help with questions or guide her in the right direction. Joelle soon found herself on the lines for AAA games, and was invited to the NOHA Development Weekend in 2017.

Both officials credit hard work and dedication to their success. Brandy carries an impressive résumé with multiple IIHF Women’s World Championship games under her belt, with her standout game being the CWHL Clarkson Cup final in 2014. She highlights this game as the one that showed her that she was on the right track, and gave her the confidence and motivation to keep working hard toward her officiating goals. Recently, she was selected to referee the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship (Division 1 Group A) in Angers, France, which was cancelled due to COVID-19, and the 2022 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Linköping and Mjölby, Sweden, which she respectfully declined as she welcomed a new baby. This year, Brandy is back for her first season with the NOJHL.

Joelle is still working her way through the ranks, but she’s already making a name for herself, and in 2018 was invited to the NHL Exposure Combine. She admits size can be a challenge sometimes for women at the high-performance levels of men’s hockey, but following procedures and being well-trained ensures everyone’s safety. She’s working toward her Level 4 certification, and has her eyes on the Olympic Games in the future.

Both Brandy and Joelle had a lot to say about their hockey families—the fellow officials, supervisors, schedulers and mentors who have helped them along the way, and the hard work and sacrifices often needed to work up to the higher levels. In some leagues, there still isn’t mileage available, so to skate in those levels, officials are often losing some of their game fee just to be there. It’s also difficult to watch men moving up the ranks faster, but both Brandy and Joelle are confident that there are opportunities for women in the officiating world, and there are supporters out there watching and ready to help bring more women onto the lines, including NOJHL commissioner Robert Mazzuca.

Last season, the NOJHL welcomed Hillary Brennan to the league as its first woman to officiate a game. Hillary is currently officiating in her hometown of London, Ont.

“The continued success earned by Brandy, Joelle and Hillary is a testament to their dedication to the game,” Mazzuca says. “Their efforts and skill-set rightfully earned them the opportunity to officiate in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.”

The successes of officials like Brandy, Joelle and Hillary have shown that hard work and dedication are paramount, and that the opportunities and support within the officiating community are growing. There is still work to be done to make sure the path is clear for women, and that the systems of high-performance hockey are doing as much as possible to encourage young women to grow into the next wave of high-performance officials, but it's clear that the trailblazers are already here, and they’re paving the way for the next generation.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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