Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Wearing The Stripes - The Lineswomen

If you're wondering who that official is with the beaming smile, it's none other than Joanne Senecal of Winnipeg. Joanne has worked a number of bigger tournaments in her career thanks to the hours she has logged in stripes, but she isn't one of the three women who will work the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championship in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia in May. Joanne has worked with the ladies who are going, though, so Manitoba might not be far from having a lineswoman appear regularly at major international and national events! What should be noted, as I did yesterday, is that Joanne's work in calling lines for games has come from her passion, her dedication, and her work ethic required to earn higher certifications, and that's definitely something about which she should smile!

Today, we focus on the three lineswomen who call Canada home and will work the tournament in Halifax and Truro. As stated yesterday, certainly this blog and hockey as a sport in general doesn't place enough emphasis on officiating as way to stay in the game, and officials deserve more of the spotlight for being incredible ways to remain in the game at a high level. As always, without officials, there is no game, and we should be driving more people to get into officiating rather than driving them away.

Here are the three Canadian women who will work lines in Halifax and Truro at the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championship!

Justine Todd - Ontario

Justine Todd's name might not be the first official you think of when discussing hockey, but it likely should be higher up those lists. Todd, who played hockey at the University of Toronto and played a single game for the Ottawa Capital Canucks in the CWHL, took up officiating with no real place to play after graduating from university. The former Smiths Falls Sharks and Cubs player wanted to remain in hockey, and it was the rare sight of a female referee that pushed Todd to pursue officiating.

That motivation has now seen Todd work some impressive events that include the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, the 2020 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship in Bratislava, Slovakia, and both the 2019 Women's World Championship in Espoo, Finland and the 2016 IIHF Women's World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan. Those events represent the "big three" international events in women's hockey, and Todd has all of them on her impressive resume that also includes OUA games, games at the U SPORTS National Championship, Women's Olympic Qualification games in 2016, and CWHL games. Clearly, she's one of Canada's best, and the support from her family and friends has really driven her to be one of the best officials that Canada has to offer to game.

"This has been a journey that I am very proud of, and an experience that I share with only a small group of women from (around) the world," she told Laurie Weir of the Smiths Falls Record News about her Olympics journey in 2018. "I also feel lucky, because I know there are many other talented women in Canada and the world who could have been selected. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband who has been my biggest fan. I am fortunate to have a loving family who supported my goals both as a player and as a referee. And I am fortunate to have friends, peers, and role models who have helped me reach this goal. I wouldn't be here without all of their help."

The 37 year-old Todd lives with her husband, Darryl, in Alliston where she's an officer for the York police department when she's not patrolling the ice! I'd say we're pretty fortunate to have a great role model like Justine Todd not only keeping our streets safe, but ensuring that the rules on the ice are followed as well!

Alexandra Clarke - Saskatchewan

Born Alexandra Blair in Drake, Saskatchewan before she found the man who swept her off her feet, Alexandra Clarke put together an impressive hockey career with the Weyburn Gold Wings which earned her an invitation to play defence for the College of St. Scholastica Saints in Duluth, Minnesota at the NCAA Division-III level. She had a solid college career where she was named captain in her final season with the squad, but, as with most female hockey players, there weren't a lot of future options in hockey following her graduation in 2015. She was drafted by the Calgary Inferno in the CWHL, but a knee injury kept her from that dream. Rather than just hang up her skates, she grabbed the sweater with the stripes and is now making waves as an official!

Clarke has been a part of a number of firsts in Saskatchewan hockey history including being part of the first all-female officiating crew to work a Prairie Junion Hockey League game and part of the all-female crew who worked the Midget AAA boys game alongside Cianna Lieffers. Beyond that, Clarke has worked games at the 2018 Four Nations Cup, and worked the lines at the 2018 IIHF Women's World Division-1B Championship in Mexico City, Mexico, multiple Esso Cups, and works lines in the SJHL when not touring internationally. She also worked a pre-Olympic game between Canada and the US during their tour in 2017 in preparation for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games! Beyond being a lineswoman, she also dabbles in a little refereeing as she was named as one of the banded officials for the 2018 Women's World Division-1B Championships in Beijing, China and called games at the 2019 Canada Winter Games! Needless to say, the 27 year-old Clarke has done a ton of amazing things since in the six years since she's stepped away from the playing side of the game!

When asked by Jessie Anton of 980AM CJME radio about her role in officiating, Clarke's reponse was pretty incredible. "I just hope that they see the opportunity and the passion and the hard work that goes in it. It's not always easy, but it’s worth it," Clarke answered.

When she's not on the ice, she's a Relationship Manager for Farm Credit Canada in her daily. She's an avid triathlete when hockey's out of the summer, and she's always chasing around her baby daughter while she and her husband run their farm over the course of the summer. It's pretty clear that her love of hockey hasn't died since swapping to the stripes, and younger officials should be encouraged to see how her dedication and passion for the game has led to big opportunities in the short time she's been an official!

Jessica Chartrand - Quebec

If you needed to identify a rising star in the officiating world in Canada, Jessica Chartrand would make that short list. The 27 year-old from Outaouais played as high as the women's Midget AA level, but Chartrand decided to pursue officiating after that one year at the AA level as an option due to her love of the game. She's worked through various levels in Quebec of her officiating career as both a referee and a lineswoman, and she now finds herself standing on the precipice of the biggest tournament of her career as a chosen lineswoman for the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championship in Halifax and Truro!

Chartrand has worked a lot as an official when one looks at her resume. She was a lineswoman at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland where she worked the gold-medal game, she was a referee at the 2019 National U18 Women's Championship in Morden, Manitoba and the 2018 National U18 Women's Championship in Quebec City, Quebec, she's worked games at the CWHL level, several U SPORTS National Championships, multiple RSEQ games, and several Dodge Cup tournaments. She is one of eight officials in Quebec with her IIHF license, allowing her to work international games as she will in May alongside fellow Quebecois referee Elizabeth Mantha. Based on this list of tournaments, the future looks very bright Jessica Chartrand as both a referee and as a lineswoman, and I wouldn't hestitate to suggest that she'll be on the list of officials for future IIHF tournaments including future Olympiads!

"It's really more of a passion. It allows me to travel, to be with other people, to make friends all over Canada and around the world," Jessica told L'info Petite Nation about why she loves being an official.

It's pretty clear that passion comes through in her work on the ice, but she's normally busy as an Accommodation and Security Officer for the Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) with the Government of Canada. She's a pretty busy woman, but she's doing a heckuva job on the ice as a role model for women who want to be an official like her, and off the ice for women as a whole with her role with the government agency.

Just as we saw yesterday with the four referees heading to Halifax and Truro, the three women listed above have done some phenomenal work on the ice while wearing the stripes, proving that you don't have to weear the red-and-white to represent Canada internationally on the ice. The hard work, the training, the dedication, and the constant certifying and upgrading of skills are just as important as the work done by players, and these women have a smaller window of opportunity due to there only being four officials used every game. Needless to say, they are the best of the best that Canada can offer the world!

I hope these last two articles are good reminders that a hockey career doesn't need to be defined by stats on the ice, teams one has played on, or leagues on has played in by any means. As these seven women have shown, career paths in hockey don't always have to be with a stick in one's hands. If you're interested in officiating, please speak with your local hockey governing body to give the stripes a chance. You could be the next person HBIC features for your dedication to the game!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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