The relationship between hockey coaches and officials is not always a pretty one, so the Estevan Minor Hockey Association is taking steps to improve it.
The EMHA membership passed an amendment to its constitution at its annual general meeting April 21 requiring all AA and A coaches to complete the annual referees' clinic in the fall.
Upon successful completion of the course, coaches would then be eligible to receive half their clinic fee back after serving as ref or linesman for three minor hockey games. Coaches who work five games or more will be reimbursed in full.
"We were out of town playing a hockey game in Assiniboia," said minor hockey ice schedule Dalton Giblett, who presented the motion at the AGM. "Before our game I was watching a peewee game and saw two of the Assiniboia coaches, one was reffing and one was linesing, and I thought that was a pretty good mentorship program when you have your coaches out there being involved in the officiating.
"Because who knows the game better than your AA and A coaches? I thought that was a pretty good step."
Giblett, who coached Estevan's bantam A team in 2009-10, hopes the new bylaw will be mutually beneficial.
Coaches may enjoy officiating enough to keep at it past the five-game mark, helping relieve a desperate shortage of senior officials in Estevan and eventually developing into mentors for younger officials.
Communication between existing officials and their new colleagues will, in theory, also improve dramatically as the current crop of referees and their sometime-adversaries will have no choice but to work together.
"From what I see, our [young] guys are too intimidated to go over there and talk to some of our coaches," said Giblett. "But say you've reffed a game with one of these guys, now you know them and maybe the next time you're not so scared."
The move will also give coaches a better idea of what the game looks like from ice level.
"The other thing is abuse of officials," said Giblett. "I'm no angel. I've been kicked out of games myself. You get wound up, it happens, whatever. But standing on that bench, even being four feet up, you see way more than the ref does.
"So I might see something on the ice and I may not think it's a big deal but you may, or vice-versa. It's opinionated and hopefully it opens the eyes for the AA coaches and the A coaches."