The third team on the ice for the male hockey gold-medal game at the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games wasn’t looking for a trip to the podium.
It was more about a family working a game they have embraced for a long time and having the rest of their life to talk about the experience.
Deer Lake native Darren Gillard was the man wearing the red stripes for the showdown between Mount Pearl/South and St. John’s North, an intense battle that ended with St. John’s/North claiming gold with a 3-1 victory Tuesday afternoon at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex in Deer Lake.
His two linesmen for the game were two of his four children — 19-year-old Jalen and 17-year-old Jolena — making history for sure by being the first family trio to call a hockey game in this province.
Darren Gillard is a Level 3 official who has been calling games for the past eight years. His four children love to play the game so he figured he would encourage them to pick up officiating so they could see the game from the perspective of the official.
“You get a lot of abuse from coaches, fans and even players, and I want them to have a respect for the officials and I figured the best way to do that would be to actually experience it themselves and see what the game is like through the eyes of an official,” Gillard said Tuesday between periods of the gold-medal game.
Referee-in-chief Ed Flood approached him before the Games to chat with him about the opportunity to do a game or two with his son and daughter and he jumped at the chance to do it.
“It’s a moment that you’ll always remember and I figured it would be something they would enjoy so I was excited about doing it,” he said.
He believes his children appreciate the role of officials now that they’ve experienced it first-hand and he’s proud of the fact both Jolena and Jalen told him they now see things they didn’t see as a player so it has been somewhat of an eye opener.
On the ice, they had fun joking and laughing when the opportunity arose. He had both of his children keeping him on his toes, a quick word or two here and there directed at dad to make sure he was on top of things.
Jolena was in her glee. She has been an active official for a number of years while honing her skills as one of the top female hockey players in the province, and she believes following in her dad’s footsteps has boosted her knowledge of the game and helped her grow as a person so she’s grateful for taking on a role that comes with a lot of responsibility and pressure to get it right.
But, she also found out that officials, like players, are only human so mistakes will happen from time to time and that’s something all hands have to deal with when it comes to the game.
“You know what the referees are thinking and how they are feeling so you can give them slack,” Jolena said. “They can’t call everything and you’re not going to get every call.”