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Recruitment and retention key to SHA officials

Former Wilkie resident heads program
Trent Cey
Trent Cey

Trent Cey, son of Jamie and Lori Cey, grew up in Wilkie and was part of Wilkie’s hockey experience while he lived there. Cey now serves as the manager of officiating development for the Saskatchewan Hockey Association.

Cey affirms that recruitment and retention will be key in coming out of the pandemic with another strong officiating core to work games throughout all the divisions of hockey in the province.

Two seasons ago, the SHA had more than 3,300 officials. This season they were down to 2,300 officials. Cey admits that is unfortunate, especially since there had been a continued trend upwards, season by season. Based on a SHA survey of those who chose not to recertify, the organization learned the uncertainty of the season was a underlying factor and most plan to return next season. So, there is optimism the number of official will be trending upwards again.

Leadership in some communities has kept the numbers from dropping more drastically Cey says. The last two seasons, officials in the Press-Herald readership communities included:

Unity - 28 officials last season, 25 the season before;

Wilkie- eight 8 officials last season, 12 the season before;

Luseland - three officials last season, four  the season before;

Macklin - 20 officials last season, 25 the season before;

Kerrobert - 11 officials last season, 14 the season before; and

Cut Knife - one official last season, zero the season before.

“Anyone who did get certified last season remains certified until Dec.7 and, depending on their age, will either have to pay no registration fees to recertify or get a discount,” Cey says.

“Those officials will be busy early in the year whenever we get the green light to play hockey.”

Officials are key to games continuing, Cye points out. While the emphasis is on getting players back on the ice, “they have to understand that we need officials for those games as well.”

“I would encourage everyone to seriously consider being involved as an official. Some may do it for a year or two and that will help get the numbers back up to a level where we can manage the demand, but others will realize that it is a great way to make some money, get more involved in hockey, understand a whole new appreciation for the role, feel welcomed and involved in the officiating family or hopefully develop a passion for the job that can be continued for years to come.”

Cey’s early ties to the rural hockey scene have set him on the path as officiating promoter and leader in the province.

Cey graduated from McLurg in 2005 and went on to the University of Saskatchewan for one year, followed by two years at Lethbridge College. His career path went from his first job as sports reporter at the Battlefords News-Optimist to marketing and communication manager for the Battlefords North Stars to his current position with the SHA, where he has been for the past five years.

“I grew up with a backyard rink and a very active and competitive group of friends, and family,” Cey says.

“I followed the Wilkie Outlaws growing up, like all small town hockey players do, and can remember pretending being one of those players while taking shots on my brother. I collected hockey cards, played video games, but so much of my childhood revolved around sports and being active.”

Cey went through the ranks of minor hockey and went on to play in senior and recreational leagues, but realized early on that officiating was his chosen role.

“I started officiating at 11 years old and have done it all through my younger years, then into university and college and was able to follow that passion to my role with the SHA today.”

COVID-19 has made his job more challenging, but everyone was committed to make the most of the situation and Cey affirms they were still able to allow many minor hockey players and coaches continue their development through small group practises.

“On the officiating side of things we had several virtual training sessions, some later on-ice sessions and tried to communicate to the membership as much as possible,” Cey says.

“Last season we had to adjust our clinic presentations, which usually include 80 to 90 classroom sessions around the province in three months. That was modified to have more online training and virtual classrooms and the only in-person portion was then the on-ice session for officials who are 18 and under.”

One thing the SHA often promotes to their officials at all levels is to control what they can control, which includes fitness level, rule knowledge, effort and attitude to name a few.

As the pandemic ebbs the SHA plans to continue to improve the clinic material and presentation. The goal is for “all officials to have the right training to be confident and ready to hit the ice as soon as we can start playing games after a long layoff,” Cey says.

As a former resident of small town Saskatchewan, Cey recognizes the importance of local officials trained at all levels of hockey.

“The key is to understand that the support and development of officials is crucial locally to having successful minor hockey associations. Rarely is it promoted or celebrated when officials are selected for league, provincial, national, international or professional assignments besides those within our officiating program. Where, if a player or coach is selected for a team, there is more recognition and promotion of the accomplishment.”

Cey says accomplishments and contributions of officials should also be celebrated. Recognition promotes confidence and passion for the role, he says. He advocates the mentoring and support of young officials to ensure their success.

“I had some great mentors from the area when I was officiating in Jason Schell and Dwayne Weber, but even then, I don’t remember a lot of support in the younger years,” Cey says.

“I know several friends the same age that would officiate for a year or two and then would quit ... officiating isn’t for everyone, but for me, because of the engrained passion for the game and being involved, I just wanted to do be at the rink and I guess I grew up with the mentality that if you commit to something you see it through.

“As the confidence starts to develop then you want to work higher levels of hockey and keep pursuing it.”