Dire need for hockey officials throughout the entire valley

“We cannot go through another season with so few officials”

There’s no question hockey is growing at a nearly exponential rate here in the Gunnison Valley, and while parents and former players come out of the woodwork to help coach, the problem now appears to be a shortage of officials.



Last season there were 14 USA Hockey-certified officials who handled nearly 270 games throughout the valley.
That is simply not enough.
“We cannot go through another season with so few officials,” says the local supervisor of the Colorado Amateur Hockey Association, Dave Clement.
Clement explains that last season the local midget (15 to 17-year-olds) hockey team, the Crested Butte Wolfpack, was almost forced to forfeit a game late in their season due to a lack of available officials.
Fortunately, the game proved inconsequential to the final league standings so the teams agreed to cancel it rather than force Crested Butte to forfeit.
That was lucky.
Clement points out that had the game been essential to the league standings, the Wolfpack could have been charged with the forfeit.
In addition to the Crested Butte Wolfpack and Gunnison Blades midget teams, there are youth hockey programs for boys and girls from age four and up. Add adult hockey to the mix, including town league, and that’s a lot of games that need officials.
Last year more than 300 individuals were on a hockey team in Crested Butte.
John Mortell works as many as 90 games between Crested Butte and Gunnison. He points out that if more officials are available, they can use more officials on the ice for the bigger games.
“If there were enough refs we would run a three-man system, which is what we want for the high school and adult games,” says Mortell. “That makes for better hockey. When you see a good high school game or good adult game go off, it’s worth it.”
Clement explains that even though all games were covered last year, officials start to suffer from burn-out as the season wears on.
“What burns you out is the men’s league,” says Clement. “We almost lost three seasoned officials because they got burned out. If that happens then the kids lose out. When there’s a shortage of something, there’s always consequences.”
“It’s just too many games in a day when you’ve got other things to do,” adds Mortell. “People love doing the games when they have time.”
Clement travels throughout southwest Colorado training officials and will be holding two seminars in Gunnison this month for new officials. He is asking the adults to step up and get certified.
“The adults can help out,” says Clement. “Obviously there are some very knowledgeable players in this valley.”
Not only will you help out local adult and youth hockey, you get paid as well, as much as $65 per game for the high school games.
“The money is pretty decent,” says Mortell. “I save all my pay from the season and take my family on an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico every year. I think of all the mean things people say to me and I get a drink.”
The first seminar for new officials will be on Saturday, November 15 at the Gunnison Recreation Center. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the class starts at 9 a.m.
A second seminar for new officials will be offered on Saturday, November 22 at the same time and place.
Clement asks all participants to bring skates, helmet and a whistle. There will be class instruction as well as on-ice instruction and an open book exam at the end.
The seminar costs $35. Officials who work a minimum of 10 games will be reimbursed.
“The bottom line is we need people,” says Clement.

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