Young officials from across the northwest came to Terrace Nov. 16 - 18 for the annual development camp weekend.

Zebras roam in Terrace

A pack of nine young referees from across northern B.C. attended the annual North West Development Camp weekend here in Terrace

A pack of nine young referees from across northern B.C. attended the annual North West Development Camp weekend here in Terrace on the weekend of Nov. 17, taking part in officiating seminars, reffing games during the Bantam tournament, and playing some of their own.

Officials from Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Smithers, Kitimat and Hazelton were represented, as well as four from Terrace. The northwest district runs from Vanderhoof to Kitimat/Prince Rupert.

“It’s a large district and these events take a lot of coordinating from many people,” said Dan Nickel, BC Hockey’s northwest district referee committee member. But the effort pays off, as the annual event, which has been held in other northwest towns previously, makes a difference.

“I notice a difference game to game [in the young refs],” he said. “Even in terms of positioning.”

The camp helps to get all of the officials on the same level, and develop their abilities and confidence level, so that they can ref any number of games, by pairing younger refs with more experienced refs for about a handful of games over the weekend.

“It’s about learning in a fun environment,” he said, giving the example of a game of hockey jeopardy the group played. “If the young kids are not enjoying it, then learning decreases and mistakes will be made.”

And the vibe in their conference room at the Sportsplex on the Saturday night was certainly fun, with the guys eating pizza and poking fun at each other — and their superiors, who included Kevin Kennedy and Terrace’s minor hockey head referee, Cam MacBean.

Peter Nicholson, from Terrace, said the camp has helped him to “become a better ref in general” and taught him about the three-man system of reffing, something he hadn’t experienced yet.

About a third of the guys said they’d like to pursue officiating as a steady career in the future, with dreams of reffing in the NHL.

The camp also helped to give them the tools to deal with abuse from parents and coaches, a reason many officials across Canada leave the game.

“This has to stop,” said Nickel. “Part of this weekend is giving these kids the tools to deal with this.”

Some of those tools include staying calm, and leaving heated situations, the group said.

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