Hockey history was made in Surrey, B.C., on Sunday night as the first all-female officiating crew worked a Junior A game.
Grace Barlow and Megan Howes served as referees while Melissa Brunn and Colleen Geddes worked the lines during Sunday’s BCHL game between the Surrey Eagles and Langley Rivermen.
The league has had female officials in the past, but it was the first time an entire crew consisted of women.
“Whenever I step onto the ice, my thought to myself is, it’s just another hockey game,” Barlow said. “It’s just another hockey game and I’ve got to go out there and do my best and make sure that the game is safe and fair and that’s all that matters.”
The four officials have climbed through the amateur hockey ranks, earning the chance to officiate a game at the junior level. Just like the players on the ice, every shift for these officials is a learning experience.
Howes said a key to officiating is game management and building relationships with players.
“Players respond way better to one-on-ones,” she said. “Who likes to be yelled at in front of their peers? Nobody.”
“That’s game management in the sense that it’s on the down-low. We don’t have to do the big arms-in-the-air penalties. A lot of our work is actually in those one-on-one conversations to make the big blow-ups easier.”
Barlow said her experience as a player and a coach has helped her “understand and have empathy from all of the angles that the game.”
On-ice officials like to say they’ve done a good job if you didn’t notice them during the game, but Brad Lazarowich, a former NHL linesman and the BCHL’s director of official and player safety, said it was impossible not to notice what an all-female officiating crew means for the sport.
“I believe that it’s kind of a milestone for the fact that these women have worked so hard to get to this point and have earned this opportunity,” Lazarowich said.
“That’s the best part about officiating is that they went out there, they did their job. I thought they did a great job and no one’s going to sit there and talk about, well, there were four females on the ice. It was just officiated by four people.”