Refs – Not Always Right but Never Wrong. A story by Jeff Johnston

Jeff Johnston, a referee from Ottawa, ON, shares his story on his 60 years of fun and memories.

As a typical Canadian kid, I began hockey at five years old on an outdoor rink. I spent many nights there playing hockey. I was eventually asked to help younger kids during games as a linesman at age 11. I enjoyed this aspect of the game so much that I spent most of my Saturdays officiating when I wasn’t playing myself. I had the pleasure of working with a couple of experienced referees working in minor hockey who helped me improve as an on-ice official. I also learned plenty by watching & talking with OHL & NHL officials.

When I was 16, I was sponsored for a one-day referee clinic to earn my certification. It was run by Dick Cordick, the district Chief Referee who later helped start the Canadian Oldtimer Hockey Association, now known as CARHA Hockey. I passed the clinic with a high rating.

I refereed while playing myself up to the age of 20, then took on as much refereeing as I could do, working minor hockey and Junior. I continued officiating in Junior and Senior for another 17 years. In the meantime, I got asked to do Men’s non-contact hockey. I was fortunate enough to attend an invite-only Level 6 clinic in Halifax.

Mr. Cordick got me involved in Men’s Recreational Hockey in 1979 and then asked me to assign referees to a tournament called the Rideau Cup in Ottawa. We had guys from all over Ontario participate. This was the start of many, many tournaments. This perked my interest in travelling to Toronto, Hamilton, London, Montreal, Victoria, Vancouver, Windsor, Quebec City, and Daytona Beach, officiating weekend tournaments for many years. I even worked overtime at my job to get the time off to travel!

I had the opportunity to work some big events for the Association, and the Canada Cup for Adult Hockey was my first. The Florida tournaments were busy but were fun and warm! In 1996, CARHA Hockey started a World Cup held in Toronto that now takes place someplace in Canada every four years. I have been lucky to have Refereed in all but the 2012 CHWC. Thinking back, I have had the privilege to have officiated the Division finals in at least 90% of tournaments over the years for CARHA Hockey. I have also had the privilege to become connected as an off-ice official for OHL for nearly 50 years now and the NHL for nearly 30 years. I currently serve as Video Goal Judge for the Ottawa 67’s and the Ottawa Senators.

Refereeing takes a commitment if you want to succeed and officiate to the best of your ability. You definitely don’t get rich, but it will lead you to meet people from all over the world and leave you with memories to last a lifetime. You come to know the players you officiate, and many of them will recognize you as well. Sometimes I’ll go home with souvenirs offered by the teams. In all my years officiating, I have collected hundreds of pins, among other collectible items. I have travelled many miles and have endured flying through all kinds of weather to officiate, but I’ve always made the best of every game.

There are so many stories throughout all my years to share, but one that stands out is being selected to officiate the A Final between Russia and a Toronto team in the first-ever CARHA Hockey World Cup in 1996. It is, to this day, one of the best games I have officiated in my life.

I truly believe that the referees are the glue to any hockey game. You must always be on your game. It involves an immense amount of communication, knowledge of the rules and the confidence to apply it in a fast-paced game. Though most of my greatest memories revolve around the camaraderie shared between the officials. What many players don’t know is that the referees often like to meet for beer after games and chat about the game. That is what makes Adult Hockey and the CARHA Hockey World Cup event so great!

I am looking forward to meeting up with the referees I have met at past World Cups and tournaments in Richmond. I also look forward to officiating some games between teams I’ve worked with in the past

40 years with CARHA Hockey as a referee has been a great experience. I want to thank each and every participant and member involved for making this event so special. You will share such great memories that you will continue to reminisce in years to come.

Remember the Refs “Not Always Right but Never Wrong.”

Good Luck to all. Have fun and play safe.


Jeff Johnston
Ottawa Referee

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