Being part of the hockey world isn’t limited to those people who want to strap on skates, grab a stick and play the game.
Starting when he was about seven, Caden Dehoog played minor hockey in Salmon Arm. His dream was not unlike those of other kids: to one day play in the NHL.
A few years after his family moved to the Shuswap, and with support from hockey mentors, he attended the BC Hockey Summer Officiating School in Osoyoos. Since then he hasn’t stopped officiating, developing his skill level over the years, including a second camp in Osoyoos.
This year, returning to Salmon Arm at age 20, Dehoog saw the camp through a different lens – as one of the instructors.
“It’s pretty surreal being back on the other end of camp,” he said on Friday, Aug. 5 as the Salmon Arm camp was getting underway.
Forty kids, ages 12 to 18, from the Yukon to the Lower Mainland and points in between, were participating in the five-day camp, staying onsite at the Shaw Centre and the curling rink for ice sessions, meetings, accommodation and meals. The camp moved from Osoyoos to Salmon Arm this year after being on hold for two years due to the pandemic.
On Friday, just before noon, participants were over at South Broadview school, taking a break from learning to play a few games of kickball. Watching the action was Bobby Williamson from Summerland, one of the lead instructors, who said some of the participants were recommended by their minor hockey associations.
Along with teaching, the instructors get a chance to see who might be ready for higher level games.
Both males and females are instructors at the camp, with the number of girls who are becoming referees growing all the time.
Dehoog began officiating ‘above minor’ when he was 16 and has most recently been working Junior B games in the Lower Mainland while attending university.
“I played junior hockey for one season out in Chase. I decided to step away and take officiating – being able to play the game at a certain level of speed and then also being able to work it at an even better level, a quicker speed, and to see opportunities of hockey you just wouldn’t see as a player, it’s just quite amazing. And being able to meet some great people like my fellow instructors that I’ve worked with in the past is absolutely amazing,” he said enthusiastically.
He continues to work toward his officiating goals.
“Just like a player, I want to go to the National Hockey League. I want to work some sort of professional hockey and take this dream to the extent. More closely, the Western Hockey League is definitely the next step for me.”
Asked about the negativity sometimes aimed at officials, he remained positive.
“Obviously in my time officiating, I’ve gotten my fair share of, I guess, abuse, from certain coaches and players and things like that, but over the last couple of years Hockey Canada and BC Hockey have been working really hard to make situations good. I haven’t had an experience that’s made me want to stop officiating, because of the support I’ve gotten from my peers and leaders alike,” he said.
The best part of refereeing, for him, is being able to still be in the game, experiencing higher-level hockey and connecting with people he went to officiating camp with many years ago.
Another camp instructor with Salmon Arm connections is Connor Simmons. He expects to be moving to the Shuswap in the next few years as he and his girlfriend have purchased property here. She is the daughter of Scott Lachapelle, who happens to be referee-in-chief with Salmon Arm Minor Hockey. Simmons said the shared officiating background is a coincidence, but he’s looking forward to helping out when he moves.
Like Dehoog, the NHL is Simmons’ officiating end goal.
“Right now I’m looking at doing more the international side of the game, as I’m getting older and the NHL might be a little bit farther-fetched than I think. But to do something like the Olympics or the World Junior Championships for IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) is one of my biggest goals.”
Currently he officiates at Junior B games and Youth Sport in the Lower Mainland and is a referee trainee with the Western Hockey League.
Simmons, too, speaks highly of refereeing.
“It’s been great for me. I always kind of grew up as a shy kid. Refereeing got me out of my shell. Pretty much all of my close friends are from officiating or playing hockey.”
Dehoog adds his recommendation.
“The opportunity to be involved in the sport as an official, it’s a great place to learn and to grow and to develop not only as an official but as a person, because you learn different life skills and how to approach conflict… You can take it into your work place and into your lives and into marriages and stuff in the future too, so it’s very important.”
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