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Paid To Skate

Most Canadians are passionate about hockey, but few would put it ahead of their careers.

Then there’s Erica Holmes.

A born and raised Manitoban, Holmes had the opportunity to move to Grande Prairie, Alta., to start her career as a physiotherapist.

“I knew I wanted to work in Alberta, and the job here (at LifeMark Health Centre) was the best option for me,” Holmes said, “I originally wanted to work in Calgary, but the job here was the best fit for my personality and what I was looking for.”

She wouldn’t commit until she was assured she could continue reffing hockey at the level she was qualified for in Manitoba.

“I requested a transfer (from Hockey Canada) when I knew I was first coming out here; I wanted to make sure my residency got changed to Alberta,” Holmes said. “That was a stipulation of me accepting a job out here – that I could transfer (reffing credentials) over, so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch. I was allowed to transfer and continue doing elite hockey. So then I accepted the job.

“I put my priorities in a row and reffing is one of my top priorities.”

She’s not just passionate about reffing; she’s good. Among the best in the country, to be accurate.

Holmes has reffed at provincial, national and even international levels, and her reffing resume will get another addition next month, when she takes to the ice as a linesman for the National Women’s Under-18 Championship in Dawson Creek, B.C.

The 25-year-old Brandon native has been officiating for 10 years now, both as a ref and a linesman, for both genders.

“I ref mostly girls’ hockey – I do some guys’ hockey, when needed,” she said. “I find that it makes you a better whole official if you do a little reffing on the side, but my passion is definitely that of a linesman. It sounds weird, but I like that part of the game better.”

Holmes said that despite her years of experience, she is still learning. That is one of the biggest appeals of officiating to her.

“I just like still being involved in hockey and learning the game to a greater extent,” she said. “I have played hockey my whole life, but when I first started officiating I found out that there are a bunch of different rules that I wasn’t aware of. It’s exciting and it’s a challenge, too.

“You’re out there as a team of three and you are trying to do the best job possible. It’s really fun and I just love all aspects of the sport.”

“Fun” and “hockey ref” are words not often seen in the same sentence, or the same context. The turnaround for hockey officials is staggering.

“You do put up with a lot of abuse, and more so the head official,” Holmes said. “You are trying to do your best every game and what people don’t understand is there are some things that you just can’t see at ice level, because either a player is in your way, or whatever.

“To me, I don’t care who wins. I just care that (we, officials) do a good job.”

So how does she deal with the abuse? How does she tune out the comments?

“Most of the time I find it funny,” Holmes said. “Yeah, sometimes it will get under your skin but most of the time you (officials) know more about the game than they (spectators) do.... Sometimes some of the comments that those hockey moms make just doesn’t make sense at all, if you know anything at all about hockey.”

“But if it does get to you, that’s when you have to rely on your team, the other officials. We have to stick together and get through it as a team. That’s the big thing I learned by getting involved in elite reffing, is that you support the other officials on the ice. You are a team and you do a much better job on the ice when you work together.”

When it comes to Holmes’s love for the sport, it’s not just about reffing.

She really does encompass herself around hockey. She played right through to the university level, a defenceman for her entire five years at the University of Manitoba.

She has already signed up to play with the Grande Prairie Panthers (senior women), and if that isn’t enough, she is also the trainer for the U-16 Midget AAA Storm.

But it all stems back to reffing.

“It’s a great part-time job,” Holmes said.

“You get paid to skate, so it’s extra ice time. I remember the first time I did it, I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘I’m getting paid to do this and I get to learn the game?’ It’s so much fun and there are a lot of doors out there to be opened. There’s a lot of female hockey in the area and not many female officials, so there’s a lot of work if I want it.”

So Holmes found a career opportunity in Grande Prairie, then accepted the position only after first ensuring that her reffing credentials were transferrable, then finding a team to play with and a team to volunteer as trainer on. Then once she got here she looked for a place to live.

In that order?

“Yeah, pretty much,” she said with a laugh.

You know you’re Canadian when ...


Hockey Alberta Officials Recieve International, National And Regional Officiating Assignments

Hockey Alberta is pleased to announce 11 Alberta officials who have been selected for regional, national and international assignments during the 2012-13 season.

“The officials are very deserving of these opportunities – they’ve worked hard and dedicated themselves to achieve these selections,” said Hockey Alberta Referee-in-Chief, Curtis Nichols. “Hockey Alberta is thrilled to have these individuals represent Alberta and our branch at these significant events.”

Hockey Canada selected two (2) officials to work IIHF international events:

- Lacey Senuk (St. Albert, AB) – Linesman – IIHF Women’s Group E Olympic Pre-Qualification, November 8, 2012 in Shanghai, China

- Devin Klein (Medicine Hat, AB) – Referee – IIHF Men’s Group J Olympic Pre-Qualification, November 9, 2012 in Nikko, Japan

Hockey Canada selected two (2) officials for national assignments at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship, November 7-11, 2012 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia:

- Erica Holmes (Grande Prairie, AB) – Linesman

- Shannon Kline (Calgary, AB) – Linesman

The Western Hockey League (WHL) selected seven (7) officials for a regional assignment at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, November 1-4, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta:

- Steven Cousens (Edmonton, AB) – Referee

Kyle Brisbois (Fort Saskatchewan, AB) – Linesman

Deion Foster (Edmonton, AB) – Linesman

Will Wood (Medicine Hat, AB) – Linesman

Jason Bil (Calgary, AB) – Linesman

AJ Nelson (Red Deer, AB) – Linesman

Cam Penstone (Lacombe, AB) – Linesman

The Hockey Alberta Officiating Program utilizes Hockey Canada’s curriculum to administer and facilitate development clinics and train local officials to the highest standards. Each official must attend an officiating clinic at least once per year.


Hockey Alberta Announces Team Alberta U16 Male Roster For Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup

Hockey Alberta announced on Wednesday the Team Alberta U16 Male roster that will compete at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup, November 1 - 4, 2012 in Calgary, Alberta.

“We’re really excited about bringing these young athletes together for the tournament,” said Team Alberta Head Coach, Bryce Thoma. “The staff feels these players will make up a highly-skilled team - we’re excited to see them compete with the opportunity to represent Team Alberta.”


Team Alberta begins tournament action at 7:00pm on November 1 when they take on Team British Columbia. All games will be played at Father David Bauer Arena.

The Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup will feature the highest rated players in the Under 16 age category representing the four Western Provinces of Alberta, BC, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Team Alberta is the two-time defending Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup champions after they won the gold medal at the inaugural event in 2009 in Blackfalds, Alberta. Team Alberta then won gold in 2011, defeating Team Manitoba 10-4 in the gold medal game in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup only occurs in the off years of the Canada Winter Games.

The Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup is a partnership between the four Western Provincial Hockey Branches - Hockey Alberta, BC Hockey, Hockey Manitoba and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association - and the Western Hockey League (WHL).

The Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup is the final event in the first year of the Team Alberta Male program. Selected players then advance to the second year of the program (U17) where they compete for a roster spot on Team Pacific.

Former Team Alberta players include Mathew Dumba, Jordan Eberle, Jay Boumeester, Devan Dubnyk, Devan Setoguchi and Tyler Myers.


ATB Financial Named Premier Sponsor Of Hockey Alberta’s Team Alberta Program

Hockey Alberta and ATB Financial announced on Wednesday, a partnership which will see ATB Financial as the Title Sponsor for all Team Alberta Programs and events in Alberta.

This partnership will include province-wide initiatives directed at growing the game as well as enhancing development opportunities for players, coaches and trainers in the Team Alberta program. The U16 Boys Alberta Cup and the U16 Girls Team Alberta Challenge will also be rebranded and known as the ATB Alberta Cup and ATB Alberta Challenge through this partnership.

“Hockey Alberta is very excited to partner with ATB Financial, one of Alberta’s most recognized and respected brands to help us build and grow hockey in Alberta and specifically help us elevate our Team Alberta program,” says Hockey Alberta’s Executive Director, Rob Litwinski.

"Nobody ever signs up to play hockey alone," says Vice President, Community Initiatives for ATB Financial, John Windwick. "You play to learn the skills that make you a better teammate, because that’s what the game is about, win or lose. That’s what we all learned growing up playing hockey in Alberta, and that’s why we keep playing. Lacing them up with Hockey Alberta feels great for ATB."

“Having ATB on board will facilitate Team Alberta programs in continuing to deliver the highest quality programs,” says Hockey Alberta’s Senior Manager of Hockey Development, Tim Leer. “With this sponsorship, Alberta’s players and parents will be the ultimate beneficiary through additional resources and support.”

The agreement between ATB Financial and Hockey Alberta is an initial three-year term encompassing the 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 seasons.

About Hockey Alberta

Hockey Alberta is the governing body for all amateur hockey in the province ranging from minor to senior hockey including the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Hockey Alberta has approximately 450 member organizations representing over 90,000 participants. All players are coached, officiated and developed through the teachings and education that Hockey Alberta provides.

About ATB Financial

ATB Financial is the largest Alberta-based deposit-taking financial institution, with assets of $32 billion. ATB Financial offers retail financial services, business and agricultural financial services, corporate financial services, and investor services to more than 635,000 Albertans and Alberta-based businesses in 242 communities in our province.

ATB Financial provides those services through 170 branches and 130 agencies, mobile, telephone and online banking, a Customer Care Centre, and automated banking machines. ATB has won numerous national workplace awards, including recognition as one of Canada’s best 50 employers. We talk a lot about hockey here.


Hockey Alberta Officials Headed To Officiating Program Of Excellence

Hockey Alberta is proud to announce four officials have been selected to attend the annual Hockey Canada Officiating Program of Excellence (OPOE) - West Regional Camp taking place October 5 - 7, 2012 in Kamloops, BC.  The OPOE is designed as an officiating talent identification and training program for elite officiating prospects, extending beyond Branch officiating development. The OPOE is a partnership between Hockey Canada and its Member Branches, the National Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League.

The following officials have been selected:

- Kevin Ward – Referee (Edmonton)

- Matt Schoenroth – Referee (Lethbridge)

- Jory Lutzmann – Linesman (Edmonton)

- Tyler Jensen – Linesman (Drumheller)

The selection process to this camp is done in multiple stages. Officials are identified through the provincial branch level by selecting five referees and five linesmen nominees that meet the OPOE criteria.  Nominations are submitted to Hockey Canada where a selection committee (composed of all Regional Branch, Referee-in-Chiefs, the CHL representative, Hockey Canada and the NHL) selects officials from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba..

At the camp, officials go through various developmental sessions, both on-ice and off-ice including skating sessions, fitness testing, fitness education, and interviews.

Congratulations to all officials!