What does it take to be a referee?
For Rory MacKillop, it’s not necessarily just about what it takes to be a referee - it’s what it takes to be a person. And for one of the North Shore Winter Club’s most active members, being a person means spreading yourself out, trying new things, and doing what makes you happy.
Today is the first in a series of three posts catching up with Rory to talk reffing, lifeguarding, swimming, and just keepin’ it real.
Kelvin: Took some time to finally get ahold of you man. You’re a busy guy this summer.
Rory: Yep pretty busy. I’m doing a lot of lifeguarding at the club right now and working at the gym. A little golf here and there as well.
How do you manage to fit in all the different stuff you do? Have you always been this way or do you just say yes too much?
For the most part it starts with my parents. They’ve always been getting me to try things and then let me pick and choose what I like. Thankfully I like a lot of things. Lifeguarding in particular is such a fantastic job and it’s pretty practical too. Hopefully nothing ever happens when you’re out on the water but I like the feeling of knowing I could help.
Is it stressful being a lifeguard?
When I first started it was. Then I realized that no one is going to get hurt if I do my job. 95% of the job is preventing things from happening and then just dealing with people and the patrons. Running on the deck, horseplay - if they’re trying to push people into the pool. Swimming under the bulkhead at the club is a big one. You can’t do that because we can’t see you.
Have you had to rescue anyone yet this summer?
Thankfully not, no.
Oh good. Just checking.
(Laughs) No nothing yet, which I guess means we’re doing our jobs.
Let’s go back to your parents and trying different stuff. You said that this has always been the norm with your mom and dad. What were some of the other things you did as a kid?
I played soccer, hockey, baseball, but I didn’t really like baseball so that was dropped. Then I started swimming at the club and that led into water polo and being a lifeguard. Then when I was in second year peewee we gave reffing a shot. I had no idea I would develop such a passion for it but it was instant.
How far into your reffing career were you when Andrew Kemper absolutely ripped into you on the bench when I was coaching Atom A1?
(Laughs) Oh my goodness. that’s one of the games I do not forget. I was skating right past him. The thing is is that he was right. It was absolutely a call I missed.
Wow, so you’re owning up to it?
100%. It was absolutely a penalty. I saw it and I just didn’t call it, and I can’t explain it. I was a couple years in.
Ok, so you were still pretty new.
Yeah but still, I remember it and it motivates me to keep being better and to learn the game inside and out even more. And to have the courage of my convictions and to make the call when the call is there. It’s my game, it’s not the parents’ game. I’m on the ice and it’s up to me to make the call.
As a coach I’ve tried talking to referees before and it doesn’t really work for me. I’ve taken the approach that I’m just not going to worry about the referees. Worry about what you can control, and the coaches and parents can’t change a call.
And 99% of the time you’re not going to change the referee’s mind. So you’d better -
Wait, there’s a one percent chance you will change the ref’s mind? Go on…
Yep, I’ve seen it once. It was a too many men on the ice call, I was playing bantam A3. Don Jamieson changed a ref’s mind. I don’t know how he did it but he did.
So Don had too many men on the ice?
Yeah, we definitely had too many men. The linesman called it, reported it to the timekeepers, and then Don called them over and they took the guy out of the box.
What a legend.
It was crazy.
Next up in a couple weeks, Rory dishes about what it’s like trying to crack the ranks of hockey’s officiating elite:
“I’ll get off the ice after playing and sit down with the rule book just to make sure I’m clear on anything that might have happened in a game. I’ve called penalties that have been the wrong penalty.”