Understanding the Heart and Mind of a Hockey Mom: My Son Is A Referee

Understanding the Heart and Mind of a Hockey Mom: My Son Is A Referee

I’ve always said that if your child is a goalie, it’s one of the toughest positions in hockey to watch. After my interview with a Mom of two referees, I’ve changed my mind completely. When I asked her what some of the challenges of being a referee’s Mom are she said, “When you watch a sport the audience is divided, people are for one team or the other. As a referee, nobody is on your side. If you watch a team there is always a balance, but when people watch the referee, that’s not the case.”

She went on to explain the effort it takes to become a referee. She said they “don’t just throw a person on the ice and call them a referee. They have to know and understand the rule book inside and out.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the parents yelling in the stands had ever opened a rule book.

I asked what she wished people would understand about being a referee. She said, “They aren’t just kids out there with whistles, they are extremely regulated. They must write a test each year, study for that test, have regular recertifications, and they are supervised. As a referee you have to be able to make split second decisions and have the confidence to stand behind them. I think as a Mom; the hardest thing is to watch them struggle with a decision that they’ve made. Often, they are not taken lightly, and they always have to justify their calls. After a game, if a referee makes a call for a “major penalty” he/she has to write a game report and sign the game sheet. It could be reviewed, and the player could get a suspension which means they have to back it up and write a report of what happened and why they made the decision to make that call.”

As I listened to what she said, I couldn’t help but think of all the young referees that were on the ice when my son played. I thought of all the other part time jobs they could have chosen that didn’t require writing a report after work to defend their actions. If a kid burns French fries at McDonalds, I doubt he has to write a report about it after the shift. That brought me to my next question, “Why do you think they love it?” She said that both her boys knew they were never going to make a career out of playing hockey but because they loved being at the rink, they loved being on the ice, and most importantly, they loved the game; becoming a referee for them was the next best thing.  

I asked her if she still had a love for the game even though she had witnessed many moments that bring out the worst in people at the rink. She said, “I do enjoy the game, but I watch it from a totally different way of looking at the game. I look at it from how the referee is working the game.” It made me realize that it doesn’t matter what position your child takes on the ice, that position tends to be the one you watch the most and have the greatest affection for.

I ended the interview by asking her what she’d like people to know about refereeing and her answer surprised me immensely. She said, “If anything, I want people to know that refereeing really is a great job. My sons have learned valuable life lessons, they know how to handle themselves when someone is yelling at them and they know how to take responsibility for the decisions they make.” Once again, hockey is made up of incredible life lessons for our young players, regardless of how difficult it can be to watch as parents!

- Written by Allyson Tufts
Author, Speaker and Passionate Hockey Mom