by Dan Carle
This is the 3rd and final installment in a content series that focuses on the revamped & improved OHA Officiating Program
Lacey Senuk (second from left), just prior to a game at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (Photo provided by Lacey Senuk)
“They can do the job just as well as a male in the same position.” – Rick Morphew.
Nine of out 10 times Lacey Senuk blows a play down as referee at any number of rinks across Southern Ontario, it’s a male game of the ice.
When not skating with vertical stripes down her shoulders and blades of her feet, Senuk keeps a Toronto commercial trailer company in-line as environmental health and safety manager.
“I kind of enforce the rules by day and by night,” said Senuk. “I try to use the same adage in both places – try to be firm but fair.”
One of just 14 female referees from across the Ontario Hockey Association, Senuk, a one-time player who now travels far to remain firm.
It’s really no sacrifice for a 38-year-old Albertan originally from Grande Cache now living in the heart of downtown Toronto.
“I love the game, and it is a way to stay involved in the game,” Senuk said, while opening up the scrapbook to many female hockey moments.
“I have gotten to share the ice with some absolute legends. I reffed Hayley Wickenheiser. I reffed Danielle Goyette, Jayna Hefford – all of those names.
“You don’t get that if you’re not involved in the game.”
The OHA is actively recruiting more females like Senuk to turn in their stick for a whistle and referee games.
“People thought I took a risk,” said Morphew, the OHA Director of Officiating.
“I didn’t think I took a risk at all.
“We’re losing a source here. These young ladies can officiate our hockey.”
Senuk, who started refereeing in 2008-09, says the game is the same – just played differently between genders.
“I think the men’s game is great to help develop female officials,” said Senuk. “But it also takes the right kind of person.
“You’re going to have a rodeo in a circus in a men’s game, no problem. All of a sudden you’ve got a bench brawl or a line brawl or you’ve got a goalie fight. You get that stuff on the male side. You don’t see a fight on the female side.
“When you referee the men’s side, things go sideways so quick. Whether you can reel it back in or not is going to define you.
“You have to have the right personality to go into those situations.”
The OHA sees referee recruitment and greater female involvement as one in the same. Getting to this point has made Morphew very happy.
“We had some pushback until teams actually saw these young women working on the ice,” he said. “The female referees have been terrific for us.”
“Every game is a new game – is kind of how I look at it,” said Senuk.
“Hockey is emotional. Things happen fast. For me, I don’t hold grudges.”