M’CHIGEENG FIRST NATION – Fifteen-year-old Gabe Hare of M’Chigeeng First Nation is the type of hockey official that hockey leagues are looking for these days, says the referee-in-chief of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) District 7. The latter nominated Gabe for the most promising official award, which he won.
“I had no idea there were awards for refereeing,” Gabe told the Recorder. “This was my first year as an official,” he said, explaining, “I just wanted another way to keep in the game.”
“Oh yeah, it was so much fun being involved,” stated Gabe. He had first got the idea of becoming an official when he saw an advertisement by the Manitoulin Minor Hockey Association looking for officials and putting on a referee’s clinic for those interested.
“Gabe stands out because he is young, over six feet tall, a muscular guy with a hockey background and knowledge about the game,” said nominator Greg Lockeyer. “He is the prototype official leagues are looking for.”
“Dustin McCrank had been a member of the North Bay Skyhawks team and when his career was over he took up officiating; last year he was one of the officials at the Memorial Cup,” said Mr. Lockeyer. “As a player he was a scrapper, spent a lot of time in the penalty box. And Gabe also plays on a couple of teams that is no stranger to the penalty box.”
On April 1 it was announced that Gabe was this year’s recipient of the Keith Barton Memorial award, presented annually to the most promising official in the NOHA.
Stacey Lewis said that when her son got the call he had won the award, “he said, ‘I had no idea there were awards for reffing.’ I asked him who had called to tell him he had won an award and he said the NOHA did. He had to call Greg (Lockeyer) to ask him what he had won.”
“It’s nice to see this recognition, it was his first year of refereeing,” said Ms. Lewis. “He made the decision to get into refereeing on his own. He walked into the kitchen one day and said ‘Mom I think I’m going to ref.’ So I asked him, ‘how are you going to do that? You work, play minor hockey, play high school hockey, volleyball and basketball. But if you’re serious we will get you registered,’ which we did that evening.”
“In his first few games he was nervous, but once he got more comfortable he really enjoyed it,” said Ms. Lewis.
Gabe refereed in many different venues this past winter, including Mindemoya on Fridays and M’Chigeeng on Sundays. He also officiated in Espanola, Massey and Gore Bay. He ended up getting a ton of experience, said Ms. Lewis, “and the more games he did, the more he enjoyed it.”
After completing a written test and an on-ice session, Gabe was awarded his Level 1 officiating certificate last fall.
He worked between three to five games per week this past season, in the atom division, as well as some peewee and bantam games.
Mr. Lockeyer explained, “each year the OHA hands out four officiating awards. Each district can nominate one official for each award, then a selection committee looks at the nominees and makes the selections. For the most promising official, we had a number of good officials to work from. Gabe is a good kid, easy to work with and would ask a lot of questions about officiating, which is good. I did a number of games with him.”
“Yes, I want to continue on and will be trying for my Level 2 officiating refereeing status qualification (this fall),” Gabe told the Recorder.