CHATEAUGUAY — Eighteen-year-old Sarah Manfred grew up on skates, playing hockey for more than a decade. Now, she’s back on the ice; this time, wearing stripes.
“My father was a referee so he refereed for a long time, so I kind of followed in his footsteps,” said Manfred.
Along with colleague Camille Jacques, she is one of only two female referees in the Suroit Hockey Organization, which encompasses Chateauguay, Mercier, Ste. Martine and Kahnawake.
“Out of 70 that we have here in Suroit, right now they are two [female referees],” said Robert Hurtubise, who coordinates the referees for the Suroit district. He’s also been officiating the sport for four decades. He added that such a ratio is pretty much the norm in Quebec and across the country, where women still hesitate to get involved in a male-dominated industry.
But this duo refuses to let gender stereotypes get in their way.
“I’ve always played with the boys,” said Manfred. “If more and more girls come out to play and come out to ref, it’s going to be easier and easier for the girls to come.”
That’s what she hopes came across in Saturday’s game where she took to the ice with 15-year-old Camille in a rare game refereed only by women.
“They’re doing a great job,” said Hurtubise. “They’re booked together periodically and they enjoy working together and like I say, it shows that the girls can do this job.”
In recent years, an ever-increasing number of girls are being drawn to playing hockey, but much less so to officiating it.
“There’s more and more girls’ leagues coming out now,” said Manfred. “We’re trying to get them more active and I think that if we keep allowing girls to have their leagues, then more and more girls will come out and participate but they need to be able to see that there are those opportunities.”
“We’re just trying to encourage more girls to come out,” said Hurtubise. “We’ve got the proof in the pudding that these girls are doing a super job and we know that there could be others out there, we’ve just got to try to go and get them.”
It’s a job he hopes will become increasingly easy as more women get involved.
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