California Referee School returns to TSC
In recent years, hockey has seen vast expansion in California.
From the advent of high school hockey and new American Collegiate Hockey Association programs to the arrival of the American Hockey League, plenty more doors have opened for fans and players alike to partake in the game.
Many factors have contributed to the rise of hockey in the state, including the teachings at the California Referee School. For 27 years, Michel Voyer has directed the elite camp, which has provided a host of opportunities for officials of all levels in North America.
The school’s students range from beginners looking to break in at the amateur level to veterans who are interested in keeping their skills sharp.
Junior and professional supervisors are on hand, enabling participants to get the exposure they need. The camp conducts interviews and keeps profiles of its students, discussing career goals with its officials while helping them to achieve the next level in their development.
“As the hockey gets better, we need to get better,” Voyer said, citing the fact that more California teams are qualifying for national tournaments. “We need to get on top of it and be as good as the kids are now.”
Voyer broke down the keys to being a successful official. Among those traits, Voyer drew attention to the need to be a good communicator, know the psychology of the game, have good teamwork and place an emphasis on fitness.
To deal with the fitness aspect, Voyer has enlisted the help of reputable power skating instructor Don Adam. It’s a major concentration for the camp because an official’s skating ability has to be on par with the players in the game.
“That’s going to be a big focus of the school this year,” Voyer said of fitness. “With juniors, the American League, and the (ECHL), if you want to get to that level, now they focus a lot on fitness. You have to be as good a skater as the players.”
This year’s California Referee School will run from Aug. 7-9 at El Segundo’s Toyota Sports Center – the official training facility of the Los Angeles Kings. It offers 12 hours of ice time, a classroom setting and two games in which officials can put their skills to practice.
One of the school’s most valuable assets is its experienced staff. The instructors include NHL veterans like linesman Shane Heyer, referee Mike Leggo and supervisor Rob Shick.
As the level of play improves, so too, must the officiating. Shick says that enforcing the rules is key to a steady incline in a player’s development.
“I’ve always said that if you don’t keep the officiating up to par with the level of hockey that’s being played, then the level is going to suffer, strictly, because players will fall into bad habits,” said Shick, noting that rules dictate behavior. “They’ll start to hook, hold, interfere and take all sorts of shortcuts.
“If you don’t have somebody monitoring that, it’s going to hurt a player’s growth and development going forward.”
Officiating success and the expansion of hockey go hand-in-hand. Where Voyer’s school assisted in improving the quality of California’s ice hockey, the increase in the popularity of the sport has afforded prospective officials more chances to work and be seen.
“It’s good for everyone in the game,” Heyer said of hockey’s growth out west. “There’s tremendous opportunity for young officials, and now you have the American Hockey League coming out here as well.
“Historically, I think for players and officials, they were sort of hindered by geography. If they wanted to get involved, they had to move.”
Heyer is in his 19th year of instruction at the camp. He acknowledged that he reflects on the help he received from veterans as a young official, and he often jokes with the students that maybe, one day, one of them will take his job.
One piece of advice Heyer never fails to tell the students: Be yourself.
“That’s always something you can repeat,” he said. “If you’re a talkative person, then that’s the way you should be; if you’re a quiet person, then just be yourself.”
– Andrew Turner