misc hockey

The Glass Ceiling of Refereeing

This afternoon, Hockey Night in Canada tweeted an article from the Canadian Press about 23-year-old Cassandra Gregory, who is a hockey referee in Alberta, Canada. According to Gregory, she was prevented from refereeing Alberta Junior Hockey League games on the basis of her gender.

Dave Watling / The Canadian Press

Hockey Canada has six referee certification levels. Currently, women are only able to certify to level five, and that has only been available to them since 2014. Gregory is a level 2, working toward her level 3 certification.

While Craig DeCoursey, who serves as Hockey Alberta’s referee-in-chief and is one of three men who ultimately make the decisions on who will serve as linesmen and referees in Hockey Alberta’s games, denies that Gregory was not chosen because she is female, other sources who requested the Canadian Press not name them informed the Canadian press that it was because she is female, and they are presenting extra challenges to her because of it.

And what difference does being male or female make in the world of refing? Do a woman’s eyes work differently than a man’s, or is this the pure sexism so often seen in the hockey community at play? Does it compound things when you’re presented with the information that women aren’t even allowed to certify at the highest level by Hockey Canada?

Or is it on the basis of size? At 5’8” tall and 155 pounds, perhaps Gregory isn’t big enough or strong enough to handle breaking up a fight.

Anyway, here’s a video of 5’7”, 165lb Alex Debrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks fighting 6’1, 207lb Matt Irwin of the Nashville Predators.

But isn’t a referee supposed to be able to break up a fight? Referees have stated time and again that the reason they allow fights to happen in many cases is because it’s less dangerous for them to step in and try and break it up, and they’re waiting for the least dangerous moment to do so.

Anyway, here’s Hilary Knight being better than most of the “elite” men in the NHL at sniping.

In the end, IS it about hockey being a boys’ club, as it always has been? Nothing about Cassandra Gregory’s gender keeps her from being a good linesman. Her size and ability to break up a fight should be a non-issue – these games were junior games, would the players really have been that much bigger than her? Would it have mattered?

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