An Interview with Referee Alan Smith

Alan Smith is a Canadian born referee who is earning a living in Denmark working as an official. He has officiated at some of the games highest level and has even had an opportunity to be involved with the NHL’s Referees trainee program.

Alan was recently in Ireland to officiate the exhibition games between the Dundalk Bulls and the visiting Canadian University hockey team Concordia Stingers. During his visit, Alan was able to impart his experiences and aid in the further development of our own officials throughout the course of the weekend. The Irish Ice Hockey Association is grateful for Alan’s visit and the guidance he was able to provide our officials.

IIHA’s Sean Gibson was able to conduct an interview with Alan Smith discussing his hockey experiences and his recent trip to Ireland. Here is what was said:

SG: Where did you grow up? Saskatoon Saskatchewan.
AS: City of 225,000 people in the western prairies of Canada.

SG: How did you get started in officiating?
AS: My father officiated for a long time. Was a linesman in the WHL for twelve years. He worked many championships at various levels. I was around the referee room from a very young age, and started myself at 11 years old.

SG: I hear you have been involved with the NHL what was that like?
AS: I didn’t referee in the NHL, but I was involved in the NHL trainee program. I attended the NHL officials training camp, and worked in a couple different pro leagues through the United States.

SG: Have you refereed at the international level?
AS: I was the Canadian referee at the U20 A pool tournament in Moscow, Russia in 2000-01. Past that, I have done exhibition games with different national teams that have toured through western Canada.

SG: What was that like?
AS: The tournament was great. It is 2 weeks, but very high pressure. This tournament is second only to the World Championships as far as importance. Good hockey, pressure-packed for the entire two weeks.

SG: What would your advice be for young aspiring officials?
AS: Work hard, control the things that you can control. When bad things happen, there is a lesson in it, don’t ever let it get you down, find the lesson and carry it with you. Experience is what we title our mistakes!!

SG: What is the biggest thing in your opinion is the most important skill required for officiating?
AS: Physical skill is obviously skating. You can’t work a league if you can’t keep up. The other skill is communication. That means listening, being open and honest, admitting when you are wrong, and being a model of composure. Referees are held to a higher standard than players and coaches, we have to be responsible to that role.

SG: How did you enjoy refereeing in Ireland?
AS: It was very enjoyable. Like anywhere, the real joy is meeting the people. Hockey is a tight knit group, filled with good people, regardless of their country of origin.

SG: Will you come back to referee if given the opportunity to come back to Ireland?
AS: My first responsibility is obviously to my employer in Denmark, and any future involvement would require discussion to take place at the appropriate levels. However, under the right circumstances, I would have no hesitation in coming back.

SG: What was your most enjoyable memory from your recent visit to Ireland?
AS: It comes down to the people; Willy Fay and his family took me in as one of their own for the two days. Coach Tibbetts and Tony Griffin from the team level were very professional and hospitable. The officials I worked with really showed a desire to be the best, and were open to hearing any help I had to offer. Even the atmosphere at the rink, right down to the people serving us food and drink really contributed to a welcoming atmosphere. It’s easy being around people that are like that.

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