Terrace Minor Hockey’s referee-in-chief Cam MacBean is the last guy to expect he’d ever win an award.
But anyone who has met him knows he’s clearly one of the most deserving, and now BC Hockey thinks so, too, awarding him the Development Award for Officiating at the BC Hockey annual awards banquet earlier this month, and making him the first person in Terrace to ever receive an award at the BC Hockey AGM.
BC Hockey’s Development Award for Officiating “recognizes outstanding service by a volunteer who has devoted his or their time to assist officiating in BC Hockey.”
MacBean, who has been referee-in-chief for more than 20 years, is a staple of northwest minor hockey, practically living at the rink during the winter, and mentoring young officials moving up through the ranks.
He’s retired, so he simply treats his position as his job, his chance to give back – it’s like he always says “If you don’t put into the system, the system dies.”
And now the system is thanking him for giving back – referee committee member Dan Nickel, nominated MacBean on behalf of the North West District (NWD) and Terrace Minor Hockey (TMH), with the support of TMH president Terri Soucie and senior official Kevin Rose.
“I have known Cam for over 25 years and have officiated hundreds of games with him,” said Rose in the nomination letter. “His professional approach and attitude have meant that I have never had to worry about my teammate on the ice with me.”
Nickel says MacBean’s positive attitude is one of the things that stands out the most, and is an asset when working to prevent turnover from year to year – something the association struggles with.
“His positive approach to officiating and to the game of hockey keeps the young official from quitting because they know he has their back,” said Nickel.
One of the officials MacBean has mentored is Tyler Noble, who has been officiating for 16 years here in the northwest, and also at a higher levels down south when he lived in Vancouver.
“I never would have gotten anywhere if it weren’t for Cam’s guidance and support, especially in the first few years,” he said. “I think most of us who get into doing competitive (rep) hockey put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well, but Cam was – and still is – a calming influence for me. He’s also really good at providing feedback in such a way that he doesn’t sugar coat, but doesn’t shatter your confidence either. He knows how to strike that balance as an evaluator. He doesn’t have an agenda other than wanting to see refs succeed.”
And that includes refs outside of his home association – MacBean travels every year, offering support to other head refs and attending conferences, like the BC Hockey AGM earlier this month.
Nickel was in town last winter for a Terrace-hosted development weekend that saw MacBean find free accommodation for out-of-town officials and donated meals.
“He did this to elevate the level of officiating not only in his home town, but in the entire NWD. He drove officials from the hotel to the rink and back again, wrote evaluations, ensured everyone was comfortable and communicated amazingly with the tournament organizer. All this, while being under control and having a genuine smile,” he said.
MacBean says he was shocked to hear his name called at the awards banquet – he was sitting near the front and had turned around in his chair to see who it would be.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all,” he said. “So I just put on my hat and went up there. I was wearing my shorts, I wasn’t the best dressed person, by any means, but what can you do? When your name’s called, you go.”
MacBean says it’s important to attend events like the AGM, even though it’s expensive, because if you don’t go, you don’t get a say. It’s tough enough being in a district that’s so large and removed from the south coast and the centre of the organization.
“We have to work together. We have two leagues up here, Omineca and Skeena Valley. We have to stop concentrating on one or the other and look what’s best for the district. We have some good people in place,” he said. “Our biggest problem here [as a district] is we can’t travel for an hour and hit 10 associations. We travel for an hour and we’re lucky to hit one.”
A sizeable budget from BC Hockey would help remedy some of the district’s woes, as officials could travel more freely if the expense wasn’t coming out of their own pockets, he said, noting that the budget isn’t likely to change.
But MacBean sees promise in the young officials he mentors, in the rise of female refs, and the possibilities for youth to gain an education through playing hockey.
Getting to the NHL is a long shot, he said, but getting a scholarship to a U.S. university where you can play hockey at a high level and get an education? That’s not a long shot at all, provided you work hard to get there and show up.
But he stresses the need for new people to replenish the minor hockey system.
“If you don’t put back in…,” he said. “I played minor hockey. There were coaches taking care of me, there were executives taking care of me, referees. Now, you have to put back into the system, otherwise it falls apart.”