Justin Fedoruk picked up a whistle and striped hockey referee uniform before his 13th birthday as a way to enter the workforce.
The following summer he hit the pavement as a lacrosse official.
“Most of the time it might be your call that decides the game, but it’s the right call”
He says he enjoys officiating lacrosse more.
“It’s all fast-paced,” says Fedoruk of lacrosse. “Most of the time it might be your call that decides the game, but it’s the right call.”
The teenager appreciates being able to “give back to the community” as an official.
Hockey tryouts this fall led to Fedoruk landing a spot in the crease with the Frog Lake T-Birds junior B team.
As for officiating lacrosse last summer, he says the biggest game he was involved in was the peewee A provincial gold medal match, which was the first provincial A-final of his career in which he wore stripes.
He’s earned championship banners in both sports, as a novice lacrosse defenceman, and on the ice more recently when he helped the Airdrie Midget AA Lightning to a South Central Alberta Hockey League North Conference title last season.
The recent W.H. Croxford High School graduate says officiating gives him a “coaching mentality” and insight into why a call has been made when he is suited up as a player.
The job has helped his goaltending, too, allowing him to anticipate shots he’s seen while wearing stripes.
“I can see the game differently,” says Fedoruk.
Moving ahead, he plans to focus on playing hockey in the winter and work as a lacrosse referee at least until he is done college.
“I think that the more female officials that get out there, the more diversity that we have in our officiating base, the better it gets” – Tiff Mochinski
Tiff Mochinski has faced the challenges of becoming a hockey linesman in her ’30s face on.
The 37-year-old with three years of officiating under her belt logs more ice-time than many players aspiring to make the Big Show.
“I still take that mentality in every game that I’m always the weakest one on the ice, and I have to work twice as hard as everyone else to keep up,” says Mochinski.
Her hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
She says she was ranked as the third-best linesman in the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League last season after national-level linesman Shannon Kline took her under her wing as a mentor.
Mochinski recognizes her authority as an official on and off the ice.
“When you put the stripes on, there’s a responsibility,” says the linesman who didn’t start skating and playing hockey until she was 30. “People are watching and people know.”
Her young officiating career has seen her skate everything from novice hockey to an exhibition matchup between the University of Calgary Dinos and the Red Deer Queens female hockey teams.
Mochinski says kids look up at her in amazement for having a Hockey Canada patch on her jersey.
“They’re like, ‘You must be a celebrity,’” says Mochinski. “It’s moments like that that are really cool.”
She’s experienced the trash-talk of players firsthand, but has also had repentant youngsters apologize.
“I think that the more female officials that get out there, the more diversity that we have in our officiating base, the better it gets,” says Mochinski.
As a teenager, she was an all-star judo athlete, topping the province repeatedly. In her ’20s, she played rugby for Team Nova Scotia while she earned a sociology and women’s studies degree at the University of Dalhousie.
Mochinski returned to the pitch as a rugby referee this year, after receiving her certification in April. She spent the summer refereeing for Rugby Alberta, including high school provincials and a number of youth and women’s games.
She says the success of the Canadian women’s rugby sevens team earning bronze in the 2016 Olympics drew her back to the sport, and although she doesn’t want to take hits like she used to, she still loves to be close to the action.
Born and raised in Airdrie, she now commutes to work weekly as a safety officer with Strathcona County.
At 30 years old, basketball referee Troy Rabel has already spent more years officiating than not.
The Calgary Minor Basketball Association official began working courts at 13 years old, following in the footsteps of his father and Airdrie Deputy Fire Chief Operations, Garth Rabel.
“Our main goal is to support these kids, because we want them back, we want them to grow,” says Troy.
DC Rabel instilled a love for the sport in his son, who continues to work with his dad in the vast majority of the games Troy covers every Saturday from November through June.
Troy, a George McDougall graduate who now works in IT with the City of Airdrie, describes his weekend work as a way to support players and young refs.
Many teen officials enter the game with the goal of saving up cash for their first car but, Troy says, “We can flip them to actually enjoy the game.”
“The more me and dad can help kids grow and enjoy the game of basketball and want to stick with it, then we’re doing our job right,” he says.
Troy is continuing to take training courses to further his accreditation as a ref, but says he doesn’t plan to leave the grassroots game.
“Community is what I enjoy,” he says.