Hockey player learns the other side of the game ... as 12-year-old referee

Cooper Baldwin at Ice Hockey refs workshop at the Glacier Ice Arena

After three years playing in the Grand Valley Youth Hockey Association, Cooper Baldwin thought he knew a lot about the game.

It wasn’t until he saw it from a different angle that he realized how much he still had to learn.

The 12-year-old has taken an avenue most young hockey players his age wouldn’t think of traveling.

In addition to playing competitive hockey, Baldwin is learning how to become an official.

Baldwin was one of several officials, some experienced and some just learning their new venture, who hit the ice and the classroom at Glacier Ice Arena earlier this month for the hockey association’s annual officials clinic.

Through his play on competitive teams, Baldwin has gotten to know some of the older players in the program.

“Some of my friends are 14 or 15,” he said. “They ref and said it was fun.”

Baldwin approached Glacier’s director of hockey, Curt Maki, about learning to officiate. Always on the lookout for younger players interested in becoming referees, Maki quickly endorsed the request.

“We have over 20 first-year officials,” Maki said. “A lot of them are hockey parents who don’t really understand the rules.”

That’s why, whether a person wants to become an official or not, Maki believes they should go through the clinic.

As it turns out, officiating is fun, but it’s a lot more work than Baldwin realized.

“It’s a lot different because you get to see (the game) from the ref’s point of view,” he said.

The first instinct Baldwin had to overcome was to immediately gravitate toward the puck, something you’re taught to do as a player.

“You kind of want to get a stick and go play,” he said.

The second habit to pick up was to know when to be in the right spot to make the call.

“Positioning is just really hard, to figure out the whole process and see how it works,” he said.

Then there were the things he thought he knew but, as it turned out, he didn’t.

“I didn’t know most of the rules when I started reading the rule book,” Baldwin admitted.

Maki said when they return to the ice as players after taking the officiating clinic, they’re less likely to put themselves in a position for an official to whistle an infraction against them.

“That’s where they help,” Maki said. “They go back to their teammates and say, ‘this is what they’re going to call and why they’re going to call it.’ ”

Learning the rudiments of officiating has helped Baldwin.

“It makes me a better hockey player,” he said.

Maki hopes young players continue to pursue officiating.

“If they stay with it, they’re going to be very good officials,” he said.


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