The most recent Bryan Mason Memorial Tournament at the Alberni Valley Multiplex featured something a little unusual—a game with an all-female officiating crew.
Kylie Scott, Nicole Gagnon and Avery Cole all grew up in Port Alberni and started playing hockey with the Alberni Valley Minor Hockey Association (AVMHA) at a young age. It was through the AVMHA that they picked up an interest in officiating, as well. Minor hockey players with the club can start officiating as soon as they turn 12 years old.
“I started as young as you can,” explained Scott, who is currently a student at the University of Victoria. She comes back to her hometown of Port Alberni during breaks to volunteer with the local hockey club. “I thought it was cool and wanted to try it.”
Gagnon learned about the opportunity from Scott. “I found out you could get work experience, so I got involved,” she explained.
Gagnon currently attends North Island College in Port Alberni, and strives to balance school with work and volunteering. “I try not to overwork myself,” she added.
Cole is currently a student at Alberni District Secondary School and also plays bantam hockey with the AVMHA. “I definitely like playing more [than officiating],” she said. “I play on three different teams. Sometimes it’s a lot.”
Scott, who referees in Victoria, had a chance last year to officiate at a female peewee provincial tournament in Dawson Creek. Although there are many female players involved in hockey in Port Alberni, the AVMHA doesn’t have any all-female teams yet, which made it an unusual experience for Scott.
“It was awesome,” she said. “Terrifying, but awesome. It was different, because it was girls’ hockey, and we don’t have that here. That was a really cool experience.”
Scott says she likes officiating, rather than playing, because you get to see the “other side” of hockey.
“You just get a different perspective of the game,” she explained.
Gagnon, meanwhile, says she doesn’t necessarily like one or the other more.
“I like being on the ice as much as possible,” she said. “Officiating helps you play so much better because you know more of the rules. You know what’s going to happen.”
According to Francois Warren, the AVMHA referee-in-chief, it is “a bit of an oddity” to have all three girls on the ice at the same time. On Saturday, the three of them made up the whole officiating crew for one game, with Scott acting as referee and Gagnon and Cole as the linespersons.
“It definitely doesn’t happen very often,” he said.
“Every four or five games there will be two of us on the ice,” explained Gagnon.
“But with me in school, it doesn’t really happen this year,” added Scott.
The Bryan Mason Memorial Tournament ran from Feb. 15-18 and featured both a peewee and bantam recreational tournament.