The World Junior Hockey Championship can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young players, but they aren’t the only ones who dream of taking part in the tournament.
The annual event is also a big deal for the officials who patrol the ice.
Adam Bloski is one of 26 officials who have been selected to work this year’s tournament. It’s a major milestone for the former goaltender, who admits that his officiating career began somewhat reluctantly at the urging of his father, a veteran official himself.
“After I think it was second-year midget, my dad came up to me and was like ‘hey what are your thoughts on trying officiating?’ Honestly at first I didn’t want to, I still wanted to play and then we talked about it again a few days later and I thought I should give it a try and things started going from there.”
It turns out that donning the stripes was a pretty good call.
Twelve years later, Bloski is set to referee his first World Junior championship after spending the last few seasons working at the junior level.
This time, when the offer came, there was no reluctance.
“(I) got the call from Hockey Canada and they had said, ‘we’ll give you a couple days to think about it,’ and I didn’t even hesitate. They said talk with your family but right there and then (I) said ‘my family will understand me being gone for a month. I’m still chasing my dream.'”
Like the players he will be officiating at this year’s tournament, Bloski hopes to one day make it to the NHL.
“They are going to have an officiating manager from the NHL there watching so hopefully I can turn heads for the right reasons,” he said.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the tournament will be played in a bubble environment in Edmonton.
It’s also why this year’s event will feature an all-Canadian officiating crew instead of the usual international mix, opening the door for officials like Bloski and Mike Langin, another referee based in Saskatoon who will also be making his World Junior championship debut.
“When I was younger I obviously wanted to play in (the tournament) but definitely my playing abilities weren’t quite there so to get an opportunity to work an event like that, obviously it’s a unique situation,” Langin said.
A 19-year veteran whose officiating career includes two seasons in the American Hockey League, Langin says he’s on the “back nine” of his career, and though he had hoped to work at the World Juniors some day, he didn’t expect it would be this year.
Typically, officials need to work the World Under-18 championship before moving up to the World Juniors. Langin, who has worked other international events including the 2019 World University Games, was supposed to work the 2020 World U-18s, but that event was cancelled.
“Usually that U-18s is sort of that first stepping stone to working other events and then not getting the opportunity to work last year I wasn’t too sure how it was gonna pan out, but any time you get a call from Hockey Canada to work an event it’s a pretty big accomplishment,” he said.
And while most of the attention at the tournament will be focused on the players, some fans will also be watching the men in stripes realize a dream of their own.
“There’s some people who are definitely very proud of us for the work we’ve done. I know there will be people cheering for us,” Bloski said.
Linesman Tarrington Wyonzek of Regina will join Bloski and Langin, making it three Saskatchewan officials out of the 26 at the tournament.
All of the officials are required to self-isolate at home for a week and receive three negative COVID-19 test results before travelling to Edmonton, where they will quarantine in their hotel rooms from December 13-18.
Exhibition games begin on December 20 with the tournament scheduled to open on Christmas day.