One award is presented in each zone to an individual or organization that has made an “outstanding contribution towards minor hockey in Alberta” and was presented at the zone annual meeting.
“I was really surprised. I had no idea I was even being considered for it. But, it’s an honour,” said Ginther, referee chief assignor for Taber Minor Hockey.
Ginther was told by the south zone referees council he was nominated for his work with the young officials across the zone, especially in Taber, not only as their present assignor and long-term mentor, but also for his work on the referees council executive and the Taber Minor Hockey Association board of directors.
“It’s critical to have mentors. I’ve only been the assignor for one season and guys like myself, Darryl Shimbashi, and Dustin Gartner, all in the last 10 years we’ve all spent a lot of time down at the rink working with and around all the officials there,” said Ginther. “One of the cool things in Taber is unless someone moves away, we haven’t lost a lot of officials in a long time. Our numbers really aren’t really commiserate with numbers across the country over a base of time. It doesn’t matter what level you referee at, everybody likes to know someone cares enough to come out and try and help them improve.”
Ginther estimates there are a half dozen referees in the local system that have more than five years of officiating under their belts that can help mentor.
The number of referees in the area goes in cycles.
“Not too long ago, we had a dozen new people sign on. Last couple of years we haven’t been quite so fortunate. The one thing with inexperienced officials across the country is we turn over every year about 40 per cent of the people who start out and don’t make it to their next season. Whether they are 12 or 20 years old, when it’s their first year, we lose 40 per cent,” said Ginther. “It’s a lot of things. I don’t like to harp on the fan/coach abuse thing. It’s an attributing factor, but there is much more involved in it for people who become involved besides just lacing up the skates, you go up there for an hour-and-a-half and someone pays you. People who have played hockey for more than a few seasons think they know all the rules, but it’s a stark realization when they get down on the ice. Officials are required to make split-second decisions a hundred times a game.”
Ginther has refereed off and on for 39 years as an active official, taking a break for about a dozen years when his kids were not involved in hockey and he was tending to other family matters.
“Even when I was off, I would spend time at the rink just watching and I knew enough of the guys that they would accept my opinion if I came and talked with them and that was one of the reasons why I came back,” said Ginther. “The first thing every referee has to do is learn the rules and know how to apply them. Then they have to adapt their style from that, you can’t wing it right from the beginning. Refereeing is knowledge based, first and foremost. If you can skate like the wind, that obviously a very important thing, but learning and understanding the rules and applying them to the game, that is the biggest thing.”
When Ginther was a referee he noted people would of probably of told you his style was a little more strict than most.
“But, what’s by-the-book in peewee is not necessarily acceptable in Junior ‘A’ hockey and you have to be able to rationalize that,” he said.