Saskatchewan Officiating Development Model


The Saskatchewan Officiating Development Model (SODM) is a collaboration between the Western Hockey League, the CIS, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, the Prairie Junior Hockey League, the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League, the Saskatchewan Bantam AA League and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association. This document is designed to provide reliable information to young officials in Saskatchewan and their parents. It is hoped this manual will help to answer any and all questions that anyone may have about officiating opportunities and the path to achieve one’s officiating goals.

The SODM includes all aspects of officiating from recruitment and retention to instruction and development and finally tracking officials development for the benefit of the officials and ultimately the benefit of the SODM partners.

Questions Parents May Have

1) At what age is my son eligible for inclusion in the Saskatchewan Officiating Development Model?
Officials can be part of the model at any age.  With the addition of zone officiating coaches for the 2011 -12 season, the plan is to have officials identified and supported in each zone.

2) Is there a prescribed time period for my daughter’s development?
No the development of any official is up to her, her talent level, rate of progression, work ethic and dedication.

3) Will working elite hockey as an official affect other things as far as time commitment?
No, every elite league allows the officials to work games on their own schedule, and the league assignors do everything in their power to accommodate the schedules of the official.

Questions an official may have of the SODM

1) Do I have to limit myself to one of the leagues in the SODM at a time?

No, many of the best officials in our Branch move freely from one league to another. This helps to provide them with the training opportunity of subjecting themselves to various brands of hockey from night to night. Also the leagues work very closely with each other when scheduling to provide officials with the maximum availability.

2) How is it possible for me to get noticed?

Each zone has two Zone Coordinators as well as at least one person who focuses solely on supervision.  Get the names of these individuals and give them a call.  Each zone will be hosting a minor hockey tournament that will focus on the development of young officials who have shown a commitment to being an official as well as the ability to progress to higher levels of hockey.

3) If I want to get into officiating after I’m done playing hockey, do I have to start at the bottom and work my way up?

When a mature player wants to start officiating, the possibility exists to fast track the person if he has a knowledge of the game, desire to improve and already has some physical abilities such as being a good skater.


The SHA Referee’s Division has always been very proud of its officiating programs and the cooperation it has seen with the partners of the SODM. We feel without a doubt we have the best officiating programs in the country, and the SODM is a continuation of these programs.

Our Branch has a developed a number of NHL, International, and Nationally ranked officials. We have also developed some of the top administrative programs in the officiating world in our Branch, and continue to work very hard at that aspect of the game. None of this could be possible without the constant support of the Branch and the dedication to communication and teamwork between the partners of the SODM.

We hope this document will help any officials and/or parents in understanding what it takes to become an elite official and more importantly what help and programs are available to help you achieve your goals.


Sask First Program

The Sask First Program was introduced by the SHA in 1988 and since that time the program has brought great pride and accomplishment within our province. The Sask First Program was designed to provide a better understanding of the game as well as to promote the development of quality players, coaches, trainers, officials and administrators. The participants are enriched as individuals and can achieve self-satisfaction and employment as part of the hockey community.

The Sask First Program promotes the pursuit of common goals. The historical successes of the program and its graduates are front and center as incentives for participants and proof of the program’s effectiveness. The Sask First Programs success has assisted numerous officials achieve their goals in hockey officiating at the provincial, national and international levels.

Further to this, and maybe even more important, the Sask First Program has had a hand in the development of good citizens. The program is just as proud of the graduates who have gone on to become teachers, police officers, parents and contributors back to our programs. We also expect these officials to help in the future to work with young people to write the next chapter in the Sask First history book.

Bantam Program

The Sask First Male Program is open annually to any male official between the ages of 16 to 22, or those who may be older but have officiated less than 5 years. These officials are given an open invitation to attend one of 8 zone camps where they are given a fair and equal opportunity to advance to the next step. The officials are supervised and coached during the camp with the help of Branch Supervisors and peer evaluations. The top 24 male officials from the zone camps are then invited to move to the next step and attend the Sask First Development Camp.

The Development Camp portion of the Sask First Program is perhaps the most intense beneficial training camp that any of these officials may ever attend. The camp is three days of on-ice and off ice work with each official working parts of 4 games. They are supervised, coached and rated on every aspect of their game. At this camp the officials are introduced to fitness testing for the first time in their careers, and future expectations of conditioning. They are also introduced to more intense rules training (State Referee Decision exams), which increases the young officials awareness of the importance of rule knowledge. The officials are also subject to skate testing and some skating instruction, most for the first time in their young careers.

These young officials are instructed on the psychological aspect of being a top-notch official, and are also introduced to the importance of nutrition and diet and how important these aspects are for them to reach their goals.

The officials are also subjected to talks from R-I-C’s and high-ranking officials from the SHA, Mid AAA League, PJHL,  SJHL, CIS, and the WHL. Each of these leagues are given time to tell the officials what their leagues have to offer and what the official needs to work on to advance to these leagues and to enjoy success and continue to move upwards and advance their careers. At the Sask First Tournament the officials are also introduced for the first time to the competitive aspect of the officiating world. The officials are judged, supervised and ranked throughout the weekend with the highest ranked officials working the top game on Sunday. Through this ranking process, the top officials are also in line to be rewarded with further opportunities in the future.

Midget Program

The Midget portion of the Sask First plan is a bit of a different angle on the development model. The Midget zone camps and spring tournament are used as a second chance for midget aged players to showcase themselves for Junior and Midget AAA teams; we follow this same line of thinking with our officials to some respect. At the Midget spring camp we will invite officials who may have missed the Sask First Bantam opportunities or who have simply developed later in their careers. Once again these officials are given the chance to officiate in a controlled environment under scrutiny from some of our Branch’s top supervisors.

Also we have used the Midget camp from time to time, to experiment or train officials and supervisors in a Seminar like atmosphere in new systems within the officiating framework, such as the modified 3-offfical system, which is in place in the Midget AAA League and SBAAHL.


The SBAAHL is new to the Saskatchewan Development Model as of the 2011-12 season.  This league is used to provide young but capable officials a chance to be introduced to the expectations and experiences of officiating elite hockey.  The bantam league provides an opportunity for young officials to work with veteran officials in order to gain experience and confidence. The SBAAHL uses the modified 3-official system for its games to also help prepare the officials for advancement to higher leagues associated with the SODM.  
The SBAAHL has its own Director of Officiating, who is responsible for the assigning and supervision of officials within the league. He also works in conjunction with local assigners in identifying new candidates to work the league and to provide them with opportunities to officiate in the league. As with the other leagues in the SODM, the SBAAHL is closely associated with the zone coordinators in the areas where teams are located as well as the higher leagues SMAAAHL, SFMAAAHL, SJHL, and WHL.


The SMAAAHL has always been one of the top Minor Hockey Leagues in Canada, yet their credo has always been the importance of development first and foremost, and this dedication to development covers all aspects of the game including officiating. The SMAAAHL has always been tremendously supportive to the SHA Referee’s Division as a partner in this area.

The SMAAAHL has historically allowed the SHA Referee’s Division the freedom to use young officials, and give them every opportunity to train and develop while being introduced to the initial experience of elite hockey.

The SMAAAHL has its own independent Director of Officiating who is responsible for the assigning and the supervision of the officials within the league, but the SMAAAHL is closely tied to both the zone coordinators within the SHA structure as well as the higher leagues. This constant communication allows for the flow of officials as they continue to be identified within the system. The R-I-C from the SMAAAHL is in the business of scouting officials for higher leagues such as the PJHL, SJHL and WHL while focusing on the development aspect.

The SMAAAHL is also mindful of the need to develop officials who will be valuable to the smaller communities within the SHA, and therefore continue to have a strong local flavor within the officiating staff of its league.


The SJHL officiating program is designed to allow officials to continue to develop at the highest level of hockey of any non-minor hockey league solely contained within the province of Saskatchewan.

The SJHL is a self contained unit as far as officiating is concerned. The SJHL has its own officiating staff, led by its own R-I-C, who works with a support staff of supervisors throughout the league centers. The goal of this staff is not only to train the officials of the league but also to provide the highest most consistent level of officiating possible for the league’s member partners.

The SJHL officiating management staff is constantly on the lookout for new officials, and is also constantly in touch with other leagues such as the SMAAAHL to identify possible prospects.

The SJHL spends considerable time and money on the training of its officials, and also uses it’s supervisors to educate the teams on the subjects of new rules procedures and communication.

The SJHL has a presence at all Sask First camps and functions, and is constantly educating both potential officials and their parents on the advantages presented by their league.

The SJHL also is the next stepping stone to the WHL and the CIS, many of the officials now working in the WHL and hoping to in the future are getting or have received their training in the SJHL. The WHL will also send it’s supervisors out to SJHL games from time to time to watch officials they have identified as prospects. Young officials who have been to WHL camps may be sent “ down “ to work on certain aspects of their game, if this happens they usually do this in the SJHL and therefore the scouting of these officials is of utmost importance.

The SJHL limits the number of officials it has on staff to provide them with the most games to develop consistency, and to provide the best product to the teams.

One of the most important policies of the SJHL is to endeavor to supervise the highest percentage of games within its schedule as possible. With its staff of senior supervisors this provides the ideal situation for Referee development.


The Western Hockey League is a developmental league for players, coaches and officials.  As a result, the Western Hockey League has a very high degree of focus on the recruitment, development and coaching of officials.
The objectives of the WHL Officiating program are:

  • Encourage and support development programs for officials
  • Identify and recruit prospect officials
  • Monitor and assist with the development of prospect officials
  • Select and develop the best possible officials for the WHL
  • Assist officials in the pursuit of opportunities in the National Hockey League and Elite Amateur levels, including IIHF World Hockey Championships

Officials working in the WHL make a significant commitment both on and off the ice to be involved at such a highly competitive level of hockey.  This commitment can lead not only to success in the WHL, but in many cases it also leads to other officiating opportunities at professional and amateur levels.  Approximately one-third of officials in the NHL got their start in the WHL before advancing to a professional career, and every season, WHL officials are assigned to national and international assignments.

The WHL works in partnership with many organizations such as the SHA, Hockey Canada and the National Hockey League to assist with delivery of officiating programs and officiating opportunities.  Every season, WHL officials are invited to attend events such as the Officiating Program of Excellence and NHL exposure camps.

Prospect officials for the WHL are identified through various development camps and at other officiating seminars.  Prospects are monitored in game situations and their progress is regularly evaluated to update depth charts for future opportunities in the WHL.

Officials in the WHL receive a considerable amount of supervision and coaching.  WHL supervisors act in a coaching role at the games they attend to assist with the individual development of each referee and linesman.  A supervisor is in attendance at approximately 50% of all games played in the WHL.  In addition to on-site supervision, the WHL also has a video editing suite that provides regular video training to the officials.  Video clips are used to assist officials in understanding the expected penalty standards and on-ice technical skills required to be successful.

The WHL is committed to working with the partners involved in the Officiating Development Model to support programs designed to assist in the recruitment and development of officials.


USports provides a unique opportunity for officials to work a very high level of hockey with the added aspect of dealing with older players. Most of the players at the USport level are graduates of junior hockey, either Major Junior or Junior A.

The major benefit of officiating in the USport ranks is it’s league policy to have every game supervised, this provides an enormous opportunity for its officials to learn on a constant game to game basis.

USport and the WHL have negotiated an agreement to provide more movement between the leagues of officials who work both leagues as one more aspect of the training necessary to help them move towards a professional career in officiating.

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