All-female officiating team works junior hockey game for the first time
BCHL had female officials in the past, but this is the first time an entire officiating team was made of women
For Grace Barlow, it was an exciting experience to be part of the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL)'s first ever all-women officiating crew to work a Canadian Junior A level hockey game.
On Sunday at 4 p.m. PT, BCHL officials Barlow and Megan Howes refereed the contest between Langley Rivermen and Surrey Eagles at South Surrey Arena, while Melissa Brunn and Colleen Geddes worked the lines.
The BCHL says it has had female officials in the past, but this is the first time an entire officiating team was made up of women.
Barlow, who is from Prince George, B.C., and is studying at the University of British Columbia, is in her first season in the league as a referee. She says as a former athlete, she loves officiating hockey games.
"I've been an athlete my whole life, and just getting to continue to compete and be on the ice with those players that are still so passionate about it ... it's exciting and it just gives me purpose," she told host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West on Monday.
But Barlow says she feels she faces more criticism from spectators than a male referee would encounter.
"Unfortunately, we aren't seen as equals in the hockey games, and it's a tough one that we still have to deal with," she said.
"But … with our hard work and our dedication and our passion for the game, hopefully that can be overlooked and we can just be seen as other officials on the ice."
Brunn, who grew up in Kamloops, B.C., but now lives in Kelowna, has worked a BCHL game in the past. She says more women are finding a passion for hockey and are getting more opportunities to become a professional player.
"There is a path that you can stay on the ice and stay involved, and honestly still be able to compete at a really high level," she said on Radio West.
Brunn says she doesn't feel pressured to work harder than men, but she thinks she asks more questions than male officials do when learning how to officiate a game.
"I spend a lot of time dedicated to asking questions to the other male counterparts in the league … asking them questions on how they've gone through their process," she said. "I definitely absorb as much as I can from them."
Brunn is encouraging young women interested in working hockey games to reach out to BCHL officials.
Currently the BCHL has 120 officials, only five of whom are women.
With files from Radio West