As the numbers of officials participating in youth sports dwindles, some of the top professionals in hockey are trying to reverse the trend. While temperatures reached 100 degrees in the middle of the summer, a very different kind of summer camp was taking place inside the ice rink at the Sports Stable in Superior.
"It's fun, it's challenging and it's competitive," said Jay Sharrers as he overlooked a rink full of black and white striped officials practicing power skating. "They're losing numbers in officiating, and that's not just hockey. It's also any of the other sports. We felt it was important to try to gear something more towards kids who are just getting into it, not sure if they want to try it or don't have a lot of experience but want to advance themselves."
Sharrers officiated for 27 years in the NHL and was the league's first black linesman and referee. Now in retirement he's hoping to make an impact for kids around the Rocky Mountain region by giving them more skills to stay in the officiating pipeline.
"I love that it's another way to learn the different power skating and just seeing a different side of the game. So it's easier to be empathetic when you're playing," said Madeline Ruddy, a player and youth official from Centennial who was taking part in the camp. "Coming to these camps opens a lot of doors to people."
"Everyone out here is trying to get better, you always want to get better. You never want to be stuck in the mud," said Zeke Phillips, who has been officiating for four years in Pueblo. "I just wanted to see the game from a different point of view. And the money's great too."
Both Phillips and Ruddy say they've learned to overcome adversity and handle out-of-line parents and coaches. But they'll be able to perfect their officiating craft even more.
"Our biggest emphasis and focus was getting kids interested and more instruction. And also make it fun for them so they're excited about it," Sharrers said.
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