What started as a recommendation from coaches turned into a passion for a Salmon Arm hockey player.
Nic Barbosa moved to Salmon Arm from Terrace when he was eight.
As a youngster he loved playing hockey and was always at the rink. His coaches suggested he look into refereeing.
“My coaches said it would be a good thing to do, to know the rules – and I kind of fell in love with it.”
So, at 12, Barbosa began his refereeing career. He liked communicating with the teams, knowing all the rules, building confidence.
Now 20, the love continues.
Barbosa was recently presented with ‘most dedicated referee’ honours by the Salmon Arm Minor Hockey Association.
“It was a lot of games,” he laughs, estimating he reffed somewhere around 200 games in 2022.
He said there’s no set number but he does “as many as you can do on weekends. I was there for eight hours a day, Friday to Sunday – and then repeat. It was good, though. I liked it.”
He said the money is good and if you’re doing a lot of games, it adds up.
It’s hard to get referees for more competitive hockey, he points out, and although there are lots of first- and second-year referees, they can’t ref the higher levels.
When he was 15 or 16, he started reffing midget hockey, 17/18 year olds.
For a referee, confidence is key.
“If you aren’t confident, you’re going to get yelled at by parents,” he emphasizes. “You need to be confident, have enthusiasm, you need to know your stuff on the ice.”
He said loud insults got to him a bit in his first couple of years, but not much anymore.
“You’re having 100, 200 fans yelling at you, coaches, wanting to talk to you when you’re 13, 14. But now that I know the rules and everything, I feel I’m pretty confident with all that.”
Senior officials mentor and provide support, which he said helps a lot.
Asked about injuries, he said referees definitely get sore, sometimes from taking pucks without a lot of padding, “slap shots from big kids.”
He’s also seen a few referees take pucks to the head or get a skate blade to the hand.
“I haven’t had anything too serious, knock on wood.”
Regarding fights in hockey, he said there will be the odd scrum in front of the net, or the odd person starting to throw punches, but linespeople break them up quickly.
Barbosa recently reffed the U16 BC Cup in Salmon Arm, the WHL (Western Hockey League) prospects camp for draft picks for the coming year.
“It was a good experience; I want to be able to ref junior hockey next year. Then maybe go further in the coming years.”
About going beyond junior hockey, he remarked: “It’s very hard to do, but I would hope to. If I got the opportunity I would surely go for it.”
Barbosa just wrapped up his first year of a business administration degree and will be heading to Kelowna next year for his second year.
Meanwhile, he recommends refereeing “100 per cent.”
“I feel like it’s a good life skill to go with, the confidence part of things, learning how to talk to coaches that are older than you, calming people down on the ice, I feel it’s a very good life skill.”
As a hockey fan from childhood, he was raised cheering for the Edmonton Oilers.
One referee he likes to watch in the NHL is Wes McCauley.
“He seems like a good guy,” says Barbosa, pointing out as an example that when McCauley calls a person for fighting, instead of the usual signal he might do some quick air-boxing with his fists.
“He has a reputation to be one of the funnier refs out there for sure.”
Barbosa speaks extremely highly of his hometown.
“Salmon Arm is a great place to ref in. I feel it’s the best hockey town in Canada right now.”
He points to the good setup in the city, with kids coming from all over B.C. for the BC Cup, for example.
“They just love it, they do it every year in Salmon Arm just because they feel it’s a great place to do it in… It’s a hockey town.”
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