Canada is supposedly known among the leading countries of the world when it comes to being progressive, inclusive, compassionate, welcoming and friendly.
However, a pair of recent events that have made headlines shows there remains a long, long journey ahead in this province.
First up is the situation that came forth last week, which not only sends sport back nearly five decades by ignoring the direction taken on the international and professional stage while also reinforcing the stereotype of the ‘old boys network’ which many thought had been mostly broken apart.
Edmonton’s Cassandra Gregory is a very talented hockey official working her way up and has performed on some of the big stages available including the final of the prestigious Mac’s Midget tournament this year to go along with working last season’s playoffs in the province’s Midget AAA league, the Edmonton area’s Junior B circuit while also doing some college hockey.
However, Gregory was recommended by the North Zone Referees Committee to work as a linesman in the top level Alberta Junior Hockey League. She would have been the first female official to work the league in any capacity and was anticipating getting a shot to show her skills in some exhibition games.
That never happened and, despite the possible trip to the penalty box for her future, Gregory finally brought the situation into the sunlight of the media spotlight and what has come out is shocking, disappointing and disturbing.
According to her, she was informed by Craig Decoursey — past chair of the Central Zone Referees Committee and current chair of the Hockey Alberta Officials Committee — that it was because of what gender she was. Decoursey has denied in the media that he said that.
Although, the fact that Hockey Alberta’s manager of officiating and AJHL supervisor officials Curtis Nichols along the AJHL vice-president of officiating George McCorry — both of whom authorize who can referee and lines the league — as well as Decoursey have all failed to give a reason behind the decision or even who made it.
Among the nearly 40 years I have been a hockey official, including more than two decades as a referee and linesman at the junior A level, this is situation is a first.
Personally knowing who is involved and the reputations of those who would have recommended Gregory — in addition to the endorsement from a well respected former NHL official who now supervises in Calgary — there is no doubt she can do the job.
Toss in another female official from Calgary speaking up about also being blocked in her attempts combined with Nichols’ damage control defence — basically stating, ‘keep at it and work harder if you want to make it’ — and it smacks of an organization, the AJHL, waiting to come up with an excuse not to do it.
Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan — which by the way have four female linesmen working the SJHL this season — have progressed farther than Alberta, so what’s the issue here? Is it team owners blocking it, does it have to do with change rooms at that level or is it something more nefarious?
One would think if the reason was simple and straightforward, the answers would have been easily provided instead of someone hiding behind a cloak of secrecy.
Am I worried this may come back at me? Not really, given the number of officials and others that are now speaking up plus the fact I’m not working on going up that ladder anymore.
By now, everyone knows about the protests over a lack of pipelines, but the fact it has become a secondary topic in recent weeks to the disgraceful conduct of some people is simply sickening.
From spewing out threats of harm and death to using the backdrop as a platform to fire off all sorts of hatred aimed at any and every person that may stand in their way, it has severely exposed the underbelly of Alberta and showed off the redneck mentality that continues to simmer in some places.
More than disheartening is the fact organizers have been ineffective or uninterested in putting out this ‘lake of fire’ probably for fear of losing support.
Standing up for the oil industry is vastly important to this province and the need for greater capacity must be communicated to the federal politicians.
However, common sense has to prevail and there is no room for outright hatred and threats, plus organizers can’t simply dismiss it as being ‘just words.’
All it takes is one act of violence to embolden others to act out and any point being made will be tossed out.
Treat others as you would like to be treated is better for everyone and usually ends in compromise instead of in a courtroom.
But that is…just an observation.