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It’s A Passion

As the start of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games draws closer, Canada’s Women’s Olympic Team is busy preparing to compete, but those 23 players won’t be the only Canadians on the ice in Beijing.

Alex Blair, Cianna Lieffers, Elizabeth Mantha, Lacey Senuk and Justine Todd have been chosen to represent Canada at the Olympics and officiate the women’s hockey tournament. 

Before the puck drops next month, get to know the quintet who will wear black and white in Beijing.

She started her officiating at the age of 11 as she wanted to get more ice time and following her University graduation she restarted officiating to stay connected to the game.

“I think with anything in sports, it’s all the people that you meet along the way,” Blair says. “People don’t understand that officiating is a team sport, too. You have your own teammates, and you build a lot of relationships with other officials throughout your journey.”

Blair became the first woman to officiate in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in September 2021 and she is one of the first to officiate in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Looking back on her journey so far, one of her most memorable games was officiating a Rivalry Series game between Canada’s National Women’s Team and the United States in 2017.

“That was my first international exposure, but it was to a sold-out crowd in Edmonton,” she says. “That was where opportunity and officiating became a real-life thing for me.”

Outside of hockey, Blair works as a financial lender for Credit Canada and has a two-year-old daughter. She is thrilled to have achieved her goal of working at the Olympics.

“As cliché as it is, it’s just a dream come true.”

Growing up in a town of about 800 people, Lieffers grew up playing many sports, including volleyball, track and field, and basketball. As the middle child and only girl, she was inspired to try hockey because of her brothers.

She enters her 11th season and also works with five leagues in Saskatchewan, including U SPORTS, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and Prairie Junior Hockey League, as well as men’s and women’s AAA. 

As an international official, Lieffers has really enjoyed traveling and making new officiating friends in different countries.

She mentioned “I’ve got to go to many countries that I would have never visited at this point in my life, and I owe that to hockey and never did I think that I’d be officiating at the 2022 Olympics. But with my career, I’ve been really lucky to work my way up to this level.”

Though she has traveled around the world, the most memorable tournament for her was back home in Saskatchewan for the 2018 4 Nations Cup.

With 11 years of officiating experience, Mantha works as a supervisor at Montreal’s 911 emergency dispatch when she is not at the rink. 

She previously officiated in the U18 AAA and U21 AAA, this season becoming one of the first woman to officiate in the AHL and she is also the first woman to referee a game in the QMJHL

Mantha began officiating in high school and university to earn money as she played.

Being one of the officials to work at the Olympics is a dream come true for Mantha.

She mentions “It’s a lifetime goal that I was reaching for as a player and when I realized I couldn’t go as a player, I tried to reach that goal as an official. I worked so hard for 11 years just to get to that goal, so it’s pretty big.”

Senuk began her officiating journey during the 2008-09 season, and she currently officiates Alberta Junior Hockey League and U SPORTS games. 

Although she has 13 years of officiating under her belt, she was speechless when she heard she made the cut for the Olympics.

“It’s totally surreal,” she says. “I’m super excited and super pumped to represent all the different associations that have helped me along the way and all the different people that have played a factor in my development.”

She (Senuk) is an avid cyclist and when not wearing the stripes, she says “It’s one of her biggest passions outside of hockey.” 

She mentioned “ If you are interested in officiating jump in feet first and for other officials it has opened doors many would never have imagined mentioning “Try to go in with an open mind and see—you might enjoy it! The opportunities are endless.” 

Being an Olympic “official” having 14 years experience, she works with the York Regional Police., which might seem “ton’s” to juggle but working in this line of work she is able to balance both jobs.

“Officiating is a great way to compliment a full-time job, especially for those of us as females,” she says. “We do work full-time jobs, some of us are moms… we have other commitments in life. But the beauty of officiating is that you get to make your own availability.”

She was proud to have officiated at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games and was fortunate to be on the ice for the first sold out game between Korea and Sweden.

As one might expect it was very important to the people of Korea as the rink was extremely loud and everyone was very vocal and as you can expect it was hard to hear yourself blow the whistle.…

She is focussed on attending the 2022 Winter Games and her dream was about to come true and now that she’s achieved her goal, she says it’s “amazing” to share this with four other Canadian officials.

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About Steve Erickson

 

 

Sportswave Productions is located in Delta, BC.
Sportswave promotes/broadcasts Amateur Sports within the Lower Mainland.
 
He was recognized by Ravi Kahlon, BC’s MLA Minister for Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation in September 11, 2017.
In December 2022 he was Awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Pin.
 
SportsWave offers services that extend from sports articles, to interviews with on location webcasts on www.sportswave.ca
 
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