It is a proud week for Irish Ice Hockey as our flag will be flying high in a country that is seeped in ice hockey history and is well known for their style of play – Czech Republic.
The IIHA’s very own Jana Gerkena will fly to Kladno where she will officiate at the European Women’s Champions Cup (EWCC). At this competition there will be club teams from Russia, Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland. Jana will have her hands full as the stakes are pretty high with the two teams with the most points at the end of the competiton will be going to the final tournament. The location of which is still to be decided.
Speaking to www.iiha.org with IIHA’s Editor Martin Grant this week, Jana told us of her excitement and how her officiating career evolved to what it is today.
“This tournament is pretty big, the ladies who are playing in those clubs are professionals and are getting paid for playing hockey, which means the quality of hockey will be very high” said Jana who congratulated her fellow colleague Elaine McCann who was selected as a linesman for the EWCC, Group A which was hosted by Italy in October.
When asked about being informed of her selection, Jana said : “It was in a early November when the Interim RIC (Referee in Chief), Dean Kelly, told me about the great news and after a day of considering going, I told him I would be willing to go. You can always say no, but then don’t expect to be called out again for nearly a year”, laughed Gerkena.
Although Jana’s officiating career started when she arrived in Ireland, she did have the opportunity 15 years ago to wear the white and black jersey, but her playing career on the Latvian National Team took priority.
She said: “I can tell you something what nobody knows about me. I could have been a game official nearly 15 years ago when I was actively playing hockey for the national teams back home in Riga, Latvia. I had an offer from my RIC to become an international licence official and referee or do lines abroad in Championships and international tournaments. But at that time if you were a national team player, you had to give up your playing career and only then could you have an IIHF licence, so I choose to play for the national team.
“But there we go, three years ago in Ireland I became an IIHF official and I would like to say a big thank you to the IIHA for giving me this opportunity.”
When asked what is her preferred way of officiating, she said : “My favourite thing in the game is those who are the best officials, who let game flow and don’t make stupid calls and there I have to mention William Fay about being a good teacher of the game to me.
“When four Irish Refs including myself, were in Latvia getting help and experience from LHF R.I.C. Andrejs Zakis, every Irish Referee, Dean, William, James and myself got good reports from him, but William receive very high marks for the “Feel for the Game” from Andrejs and I would like my Referee skills to follow the advice of Andrejs.”
The term ‘Feel for the Game’ is generally defined by the IIHF as referees who have a natural understanding of the game and is mostly associated with officials who were once players and who use their experience when issuing two minute penalties, five minute majors and maybe calling a stoppage to the game along with talking to both teams captains on club competition level rather then on the international scene.
When asked how people react at tournaments abroad when she says she is an Irish official, Jana said, “They always ask what brings me to Ireland and is there really ice hockey in Ireland, because very rarely they hear about ice hockey in Ireland. I think with officiating in those games in international level it is a very good opportunity to raise interest about Ireland and Irish ice hockey in total.
Jana will also travel to Reykjavik, Iceland next March where she will officiate at the IIHF World Women Championship Division IV. Jana has ambitious plans for her officiating career and says she would like to officiate in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and will work hard for her chance to do so.
On concluding the interview Jana said “I would like to thank the IIHA Executive Committee, especially for looking after me and the arrangements along with the people who have supported me along the way.”
The IIHA wish Jana all the best in her upcoming tournament and we know she will represent us proud and professionally.