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Pictou County referee-in-chief struggles to gets on-ice officials

Local hockey on-ice officials (from left): Barrett Baker, Bailey MacKay and Jayden Hatchard.
Local hockey on-ice officials (from left): Barrett Baker, Bailey MacKay and Jayden Hatchard. - Kevin Adshade

What’s worse than a hockey official who makes a major on-ice gaffe?
The ones who don’t show up at the rink at all.
Brian Affleck, the referee-in-chief for Pictou County (appointed by Hockey Nova Scotia), says he sometimes has to scramble to ensure that minor hockey and high school games in Pictou County have the adequate number of on-ice officials.
“The main issue is – and I have no problem saying this – is some of them are unreliable,” says Affleck.
“I have a few kids that are very reliable, but a lot of other kids don’t treat it like a job. They accept games, then not show up, and it makes it very difficult to fill games with referees.”
He said that at an event such as the Subway Cup, a female hockey tournament that was held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre in late October, a teenager could have made as much as $350 officiating games over the course of the three days – not a bad paychecque for a high schooler. 
At the conclusion of last season, minor hockey lost several on-ice officials who moved away to go to school, or moved on for other reasons. 
“We lost a few kids who were very reliable,” Affleck said. “That’s half-a-dozen bodies that are tough shoes to fill.”
Affleck said it’s important to keep young people flowing into the refereeing system; some of the older officials aren’t keen at working games at the lower levels of minor hockey, and the younger ones can get some valuable experience by working those games.
Of course, the abuse that referees and linesmen can get if they are perceived to have made a mistake is also a problem; not everyone is cut out to let the verbal abuse roll off their backs.
“Some of them are scared to call penalties, because of the backlash they get from coaches and parents,” said Affleck. 
Bailey MacKay, of Toney River, has been officiating for three seasons. He chose to start refereeing in part because he didn’t want a job where he’d be flipping burgers or running a cash register. He can handle any verbal abuse he gets on the ice. 
“I’ve had a couple of issues with that,” said the 17-year-old. “But you just take it as it comes, and don’t take it too personal. You have to remind them when they’re getting close to crossing the line.”

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