– Kurtis Langille knew his minor hockey days were coming to an end, but he wasn’t ready to leave the game he’d played since her first wore skates.
Instead, the 21-year-old Maccan man turned to officiating and after several seasons of moving through the ranks of the Cumberland County Minor Hockey Association he is gaining recognition provincially.
Langille, who at first took a year off midget hockey to referee full-time only to do both the next two years, has been selected to officiate the Atlantic Challenge Cup during the Thanksgiving weekend from Oct. 11 to 13 at the Superior Propane Centre in Moncton.
“It’s really quite an honour and a privilege to be selected,” Langille said. “It came as a bit of a surprise. I really didn’t know they were looking at me and there are so many other officials around Nova Scotia they could have chosen. I know it’s going to be a great experience for sure.”
The Atlantic Challenge Cup features the top men’s U14 and U15 teams from the four Atlantic provinces as well as the top U16 and U18 women’s teams.
Langille, a Level 3 official, made an impression last season, officiating at the three local levels of junior hockey – including the Maritime Junior Hockey League. This past summer, the River Hebert District School grad was invited to attend the high-performance camp at St. Francis Xavier University while last spring he was invited to referee a provincial midget final at the Hockey Nova Scotia Day of Champions in Truro.
“I got an email at the end of last season to attend the high-performance camp. It was a lot of work. Classroom, fitness and on-ice. It was physically demanding but it was very rewarding,” he said. “We got to learn how to deal with everything that goes on in the rink.”
Getting to officiate at the higher levels has been very helpful to Langille as he has received advice from some of the province’s top referees. During the Day of Champions last spring, he received guidance from Hockey Nova Scotia’s best referees and was recommended to attend the high-performance camp.
It was at that camp – that coincided with the selection of Nova Scotia’s men’s and women’s teams attending the Atlantic Challenge Cup – that he and some of the province’s best young officials learned the skills to take them to the next level.
Langille understands officiating can be tough, but he said it is getting better when it comes to abuse from parents, fans and coaches. The biggest thing he has learned is to ignore what people in the stands are saying and to never lose his cool.
“That shows them they’re getting to me,” Langille said. “You have to keep your cool. I know we lose officials every year because of the abuse and the first time it happens it could ruin an official’s career. The biggest thing is to ignore it, worry about what you’re doing on the ice. If you make a mistake, learn from it.”
While he misses playing, he said there is still lots of teamwork on the ice between referees and linesmen and that team is just important as the two teams playing on the ice.
He said officiating gave him a new perspective when he went back to playing. He said he too used to get upset with calls made by the referee when he was a younger player, but after officiating he looked at the game differently and understood better how hard it can be to referee or be a linesman.
“I watch a lot of hockey at all levels and it has made a difference,” he said.
He has enjoyed working with minor hockey teams over the last few years, including the Roy Maltby Fundy Hockey School. He has found helping players learn how to give bodychecks properly during practices has helped make them better players and adjust to the body contact of bantam and midget.
Looking back to when he began officiating, Langille said he has several referees he calls mentors including former Cumberland County referee-in-chief and recently retired referee Craig Sloan and present referee-in-chief Travis Parrell.
Some of the best advice he can give to younger officials, or those thinking about becoming referees, is to listen to and take advice from older referees because they are there to help.
“Ask questions, always ask questions,” he said.