13-year-old hockey player gets extra ice time, and cash, while refereeing

Referees of Calgary's Esso Minor Hockey Week, the largest hockey tournament in the world, range in age from 13 to 70. Mason Rockley, who represents the younger side, talks about the offbeat pleasure of officiating.

Calgary tween pulls on the stripes with help from mentoring program

Mason Rockley is a first-year referee who hopes to call some games during Esso Minor Hockey Week, the largest hockey tournament in the world that kicked off in Calgary last Saturday. (Cam Rockley)

It might seem weird for a 13-year-old to want to become a referee, but it runs in the family for Mason Rockley.

When he's not playing bantam hockey, Rockley is a first-year referee who may be called upon to ref in Esso Minor Hockey Week — the world's largest hockey tournament.

The tournament features 13,000 kids of varying ages on 655 different teams, who play 915 games. It kicked off last weekend and runs until Saturday.

Rockley's team is among them, but they lost, leaving him with an open schedule to referee some games.

The question, of course, being why would anyone want to?

"My brother was a referee three years before I started [refereeing], so it kind of started to show up in my family when I saw him doing it — and every month I saw him bring home a cheque, so that also interested me," Rockley said in an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener.

We meet 13-year old referee Mason Rockley and Lance McKinnon who is chair of the Central Zone Referee's Committee which runs a referee mentorship program for teens. 7:54

Mentoring young referees

Lance McKinnon, the chair of the Central Zone Referees' Committee (CZRC), joined Rockley to talk about mentoring a young aspiring ref, who must be two years older than the players they are refereeing.

"We allow officials to be 13 and older," said McKinnon. "We have 14 communities that are advertising for bringing young officials in, and we're looking for kids that have a hockey sense, like the game and want to make a little extra money."

McKinnon said there are 800 officials under the age of 15 in Calgary at the moment, each of whom the CZRC mentors — much the way coaches mentor players.

"Every official goes through a one-day clinic. We [also] have a number of mini-clinics, and we have the mentorship program — so it's a number of ways of providing coaching, really, just by leveraging our experienced officials to help them out with that."

Referees wanted

In fact, the age range of minor hockey officials in Calgary is from 13 to 70, which is good, because Calgary's minor hockey system needs them.

"Last year we assigned just over 45,000 hockey games across the city and area, so we need all these people to help out," McKinnon said.

For Rockley, the mentorship that helped familiarize him with the rules of the game has had one unanticipated side effect: now he knows them better than his bantam coach.

"One time a guy got a penalty that doesn't get called very much and coach was yelling — and I was like, 'No, that's really a penalty.'"

With files from Calgary Eyeopener