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Sibling referees take to the ice together for the first time


Hockey for many people in The Pas and area is a family sport and the A&W & Funky Threadz Novice Tournament this past weekend was no exception, but for the referees of that tournament it was also a time to spend with family.
Two brothers as well as a father and son were taking part in the Novice Tournament officiating as referees; the brothers are Griffin and his younger brother Xander Wadelius who is officiating for the first time at this tournament.
The father and son are Ernie Foster -who has been a part of The Pas Minor Hockey for over 40 years- and his son Hutton Foster who is 12 and officiating for the first time as well. According to Ernie it is very unusual to get two brothers on the officiating side together at the same time.
As for the brothers themselves they are taking it in stride and Griffin has a lot to teach Xander.
“It’s going to be easier because we can communicate a little better because we know each other. I’ve been here for four years so I know what I’m doing and this is his first year and this is his first tournament, he’s got stuff to learn but I can teach him,” said Griffin Saturday morning.
“I’m pretty excited. He’s reffed a lot of games, more than me so I think I’ll look at him from time to time and see if I make any mistakes which I hopefully won’t,” added Xander.
While most hockey families come out to watch their kids play hockey their family will be coming out to watch them enforce the rules and officiate hockey instead.
“They don’t usually come to watch me ref games. I’m just blowing the whistle but if there’s two of us (they will),” said Griffin with Xander adding, “They don’t usually come to watch my games so them watching will put a bit more pressure on. After the game they will just tease me on how I do but it’s worth it.”
Griffin said he will continue being a referee until he graduates high school and maybe a little more after that.
For Ernie and Hutton it was also a special time as father and son took to the ice on the first day of the tournament Friday.
“It’s kind of an honour to work with your son. It’s going to be his first game ever with no mentor, He’s been training for the past month and a half; it’s Hutts first game with nobody holding the hand. For me to work with him with his first game was pretty thrilling,” said Ernie after the game.
While Hutton would normally be too young to officiate at 12 years old, Ernie got Hockey Manitoba to take on a new project to allow younger referees to gain experience. While it’s only his son this year he hopes to bring on more kids as time goes on.
“He’s a pilot project; he’s an underage official this year being only 12 years old. Hockey Manitoba allowed us in the Nor-Man Region to have a pilot project; he’s the only one in the Nor-Man Region to enter into the project. It’s a good thing to mentor him and get him involved,” explained Ernie.
He also credits The Pas Minor Hockey for creating a very supportive environment to allow kids the opportunity to officiate at a young age for everyone involved including his sons, saying “it’s been very rewarding to work with these kids, watch them develop. I got two boys around 18 and 20 years old who have gone on to working line in junior hockey which is good for me to see.”
For Hutton it’s useful because his dad is never too far away to have his questions answered.
“It’s good working with my dad, so if I have any questions I can take it home and talk to him,” said Hutton.
Not that he needs too much help since he’s been involved in hockey in one way or another since a very young age.
“Hutton’s been involved in playing the game ever since he was four and today now he’s got the other option. He will know the rules of the game, he’s been playing since he was four years old, he went through the clinic and knows lots about the rules,” explained Ernie.
In recent history it has been easier to become a referee officiating games as people have become more educated about hockey and how it works.
“It’s not like it has been in the past. In the early years I would always joke about it, I would say you would have to have skin like a pig, to have a very thick skin because people were very abusive verbally to us. Today, over the past three to five years, it’s improved so much and people are better educated today,” said Ernie.
If it’s minor hockey, or the OCN Blizzard or even the NHL, referees often get a lot of flak for enforcing the rules. According to the two brothers and Ernie however it isn’t that bad.
“It’s fun and you get paid, and it’s easy if you know what you’re doing. The first year you’re nervous and you’re not as involved and it’s like you don’t know if you want to do this, but in the second year you love it and the rest is history,” said Griffin.
Adding onto that, Xander said, “You need to have a good whistle.”
They can also always depend on each other for support as well Ernie said.
“I call them the zebra team of referees. We’re a very close-knit group here in The Pas and I’m happy about that, and they help each other very much.”

Trevor Wright