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Given the ever changing world and the involvement of Women in sports normally officiated by Men the CEBL has gone to the “free-throw line” and managed to put additional points on the scoreboard.

Having a Daughter playing sports in North Delta when we were often told that “girls don’t play boy sports” well think again as over time she was welcomed along with several of her friends who were actually better than some of the boy’s playing.

We (Sportswave) covers various sports which includes the Vancouver Bandits and over the past years we have chatted with Mike Morealle about changes and were given a “little insight” that this might happen.

Well it DID!!

Enjoy the read and again CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CEBL!!!!!!!

It’s cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason: refereeing is a thankless job.

When officials make the right call, it is often forgotten. But err – especially in a critical moment – and suddenly you’re in the spotlight.

On Tuesday, though, a rarity will occur as referees MP Malo, Fei Xiang and Christine Vuong are given a chance to shine. 

The trio will become the first all-female Canadian officiating crew to work a professional men’s basketball game when it oversees a CEBL contest in Ottawa between the BlackJacks and Montreal Alliance.

“I’m hoping that there’s a couple little girls or women that will turn on the channel and look on TSN and they’re gonna see, ‘Oh wow, there’s three female referees that are officiating the game,’ and they’re actually gonna just enjoy the game,” Malo said.

Malo, Xiang and Vuong are counted among six of the CEBL’s 54 women referees, up from four last season. By comparison, just six of the NBA’s 75 officials are women.

The officiating crew is only one part of the BlackJacks’ Women in Sports night, which will also feature special “I support women” keychains, a three-point shootout between top women’s players at Carleton and the University of Ottawa and a community award recipient.

Marika Guérin, Ottawa’s vice president, said the initiative sprung from an off-season front office meeting in which each member was asked to prepare an idea for a theme night.

Every single person came back with a women’s sports pitch.

“So, it went without saying that, OK, it means it’s important for all of us and we’re all different people and we know it’s important for our community as well,” Guérin said.

as the Saskatchewan Rattlers take on the Fraser Valley Bandits during Canadian Elite Basketball League action at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, SK, on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Electric Umbrella/Steve Hiscock

As part of the ensuing brainstorm on the women’s sports night, the idea to have an all-female officiating crew was born.

Malo, 40, has worked as a FIBA-carded official since 2011, including reffing at the 2021 Olympics and 2022 women’s World Cup. She’s also worked in the NBA’s G League for the past three seasons.

The Quebec native is on a short list of 40 officials to work the upcoming Paris Olympics, 30 of whom will ultimately be chosen.

 Malo, who played NCAA D1 basketball at St. Bonaventure University, isn’t new to firsts as she was the first woman to officiate a U SPORTS men’s national championship game. 

Now, she’s hoping these firsts turn into regular occurrences.

“It will be another milestone that I think hopefully will become the norm and we’ll not talk about it as an historic event — that things will be as normal as we’re just officials on the floor,” Malo said.

Xiang, 35, recently experienced a first of her own – her CEBL debut on June 1, in which crew chief Dave Maxin ceded her the honour of throwing the first tip.

Originally from China, Xiang arrived in Toronto as a child and attended U of T, where after being cut from the varsity women’s basketball team she picked up officiating as a part-time gig to both make some side money and stay close to the sport.

“When I started, there were maybe a handful of us and I guess I didn’t have very many female officials role models to look up to,” she said.

Now, just 10 days after her CEBL debut, Xiang is set for another milestone alongside Malo and Vuong.

“It means a lot to be selected to have this honour of being part of history,” she said. “I’m so thankful for everybody that paved the path, that’s pushed the door open, that’s held the door open for myself and the future female referees to come.”

Xiang first met Vuong through playing basketball about 15 years ago. Vuong has since become a role model for Xiang, and she was even part of the crew for her CEBL debut.

“[Vuong] has helped me along the way at every step. And anytime I need advice, anytime I need somebody to look at a play, she’s my go-to,” Xiang said.

Vuong, of Toronto, is also a FIBA-carded ref in addition to working games in NCAA Division I women’s basketball.

She came into the profession 15 years ago after her playing career fizzled, and says that besides the increasing number of women, the biggest change in that time has been the pace of play – an added toll on refs who must keep up.

Vuong agreed with Malo that she hopes first like Tuesday’s game are soon the norm.

“You have three referees that are representing the country as FIBA-carded referees, but at the same time being role models to say, hey, if you don’t end up playing basketball anymore, you can still stay in the game and hey, check it out, females do it as well,” Vuong said.

Once the ball is tipped and play begins, Malo, Xiang and Vuong may once again be relegated into the background as the game and the players themselves take centre stage.

But the hope is that the trio of milestone makers leave an impression that lasts beyond the final buzzer.

“It just shows in a sense that anything is possible. You should put your heart into it. There’s no limit to your dream,” Malo said. “We’re officials on the court. We’re going to serve the game. Whatever gender you are, you can do the job on the court.”


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