One Abbotsford resident made his National Hockey League training camp debut at the Vancouver Canucks camp on Friday (Sept. 24).
But Brayden Stewart wasn’t wearing Vancouver’s blue and green, instead the 20-year-old donned the zebra stripes and had the unique opportunity to be a referee during the Canucks scrimmage.
Stewart, along with Connor McCracken were the referees, while Brayden Cameron and Arian Khayam were the linesmen.
He said he received a text message from a representative from BC Hockey asking if he wanted to participate at the event and jumped on the opportunity.
“I changed my whole life around to be a part of this game because it’s something that’s probably never going to happen again,” he said, on Friday afternoon right after the scrimmage had concluded.
Stewart and his officiating partners patrolled the ice for two halves of 25 running minutes. It’s by far the highest level that the Yale Secondary grad has ever reffed, as previously his top level was the British Columbia Hockey League (Junior A). Stewart has officiated at BCHL games all across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, as well as all kinds of local minor hockey.
He admitted that the NHL was a step up.
“It was a hell of a lot faster than the BCHL,” he said, laughing. “But it was good.”
Stewart and his partners went into the game knowing that they aren’t supposed to call penalties unless it was something completely blatant. But that didn’t stop a minor complaint directed to McCracken.
“There was a trip that maybe should have been called and a player said to him ‘that’s a fricking penalty’”, he said, chuckling. “But overall it was a lot of fun.”
This is the eighth season that Stewart has been an official, and he said he enjoys the job, especially being out at the rink and the extra income.
When he’s not wearing referee colours, Stewart suits up in the black and silver of the Mission City Outlaws of the Pacific Junior Hockey League (Junior B). Stewart, a centre, is off to a great offensive start with nine points in six games. He and the Outlaws currently have a record of 2-3-0-1. Regular home games for the team occur on Saturday’s at 6:45 p.m. at the Mission Leisure Centre.
Stewart said he’s not sure if he wants to pursue a career as an official, but that he’s enjoying the ride and will never forget officiating players in the top hockey league on the planet.
Abbotsford’s Evan Dahl had the opportunity to officiate Saturday’s Canucks scrimmage and Stewart had sound advice for his colleague.
“Don’t screw up,” he said, with a grin on his face.
Stewart and the Outlaws next home game occurs on Saturday (Oct. 2) when the Ridge Meadows Flames to the MLC.