All-female officials team take part in junior hockey game for the first time
For Grace Barlow, it was an exciting experience to be part of the first-ever all-female BC Hockey League (BCHL) team of officials to compete in a Canadian Junior A level hockey game.
At 4 p.m. PT on Sunday, BCHL officials Barlow and Megan Howes refereed the game between Langley Rivermen and the Surrey Eagles at South Surrey Arena, while Melissa Brunn and Colleen Geddes worked the lines.
BCHL say they have had female officials in the past, but this is the first time that an entire team of officials has been made up of women.
Barlow, who is from Prince George, BC, and studies at the University of British Columbia, is in his first season in the league as a referee. She says that as a former athlete, she loves to officiate hockey games.
“I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and I just keep competing and being on the ice with these players who are still so passionate about it… it’s exciting and it just gives me a goal,” a- she told host Sarah. Penton on CBC Radio West Monday.
But Barlow says she feels she faces more criticism from spectators than a male referee would encounter.
“Unfortunately, we are not considered equal in hockey games, and it’s a tough game that we still have to face,” she said.
“But… with our hard work, dedication and passion for the game, I hope this can be overlooked and we can just be seen as other officials on the ice.
Brunn, who grew up in Kamloops, BC but now lives in Kelowna, has played a BCHL game in the past. She says more women are passionate about hockey and have more opportunities to become professional players.
“There is a way where you can stay on the ice and stay involved, and honestly still be able to compete at a very high level,” she said on Radio West.
Brunn says she doesn’t feel pressured to work harder than men, but she does think she asks more questions than male officials when learning how to referee a game.
“I spend a lot of time asking questions of the other male counterparts in the league… asking them about how they went through their process,” she said. “I really absorb as much as possible. “
Brunn encourages young women interested in working hockey games to contact BCHL officials.
Currently, the BCHL has 120 officials, of which only five are women.