Russell, MB – It was an exciting game for 13-year old Laine Muir and grandmother Eleanor Muir as they took to the ice as an officiating duo for the first time January 29.
For everyone in the hockey community, Eleanor has been a familiar face at the arena. Along with her contribution to the skating program, Eleanor has been officiating for the last 30 years.
When Eleanor first started in 1987, a woman official was rare to see with only 17 registered in Manitoba and still to this day it is predominantly a male role.
Talking about her early experiences, Eleanor notes “When I first started officiating, it definitely was male dominated. I kept my hair short then so that a lot of the teams and coaches presumed I was a boy”.
There are now as many hockey provincial, national and international tournaments for women as males. “There were no female teams within a hundred miles of Russell when I started,” Eleanor states. “The first female hockey tournament that I did was in the Winnipeg area and it was Women’s Provincials.”
Although women’s hockey has had a slow growth as a whole, hockey greats like Hayley Wickenheiser have paved the way for more women and girls taking a place in the game.
“Reffing throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Canada has given me friends that I otherwise would never have met. There have been challenges, but the rewards of being an official far outweigh any of the negative,” said Eleanor. “Every player, coach, manager and fan that I have encountered have been given my respect, and in return 98% of the time I got theirs.”
With Eleanor’s impressive officiating career, including six National Women’s Championships, numerous Western Shield female tournaments, along with pre-World exhibition games – one that was between Team Canada and the USA, her best memory is of Laine’s officiating debut. “My proudest moment as a hockey official, by far, was being able to ref with my granddaughter in her first every officiating assignment,” Eleanor mentioned.
Laine plays as a defensemen for the Bantam girls’ team out of Neepawa. Watching her grandmother officiate has been a regular past-time for Laine growing up. But it wasn’t until she had the opportunity to be officiated by Eleanor that Laine’s interest turned into action. In the fall of 2016 she made the decision to take up officiating and it was not long before Laine found herself in a Russell Officiating clinic last November.
With Eleanor taking her under her wing, Laine’s debut game as a certified official was, of course, beside her grandma, during a Russell Novice tournament on January 29. With a few butterflies in her stomach, she took to the ice, but the nervousness quickly left, knowing that her grandma “had her back.” And there was not another person Laine would have rather had by her side than her grandma.
“It was super cool reffing with my Grandma.,” Laine said with excitement. With the ever increasing number of females in hockey, it is important to showcase that women can be in all aspects of the game. Officiating is not gender based. Currently there are 120 female officials in Manitoba in comparison to approximately 1200 male officials. That is a big leap from 17 in 1987.
To become a hockey official, the individuals has to be a minimum of 13 years old in the certifying year, have some hockey knowledge and the ability to skate.
“Pretty sure that Laine and I are the only grandmother/granddaughter officiating duo, not only in Manitoba, but in Canada,” commented Eleanor. “How awesome is it that I am still able to do this with my granddaughter?”
At age 59, Eleanor is proudly paving the way, encouraging girls like her granddaughter Laine, to experience all aspects in Canada’s pastime, the great game of hockey.
Written by Racheal Scratch
Courtesy of The Russell Banner