Policing Whitehorse’s rinks and diamonds

Although it was 30 years ago, Bud Arnold clearly remembers the first time he wore the black and white of a referee’s jersey.

Although it was 30 years ago, Bud Arnold clearly remembers the first time he wore the black and white of a referee’s jersey.

“I studied NHL hockey and I took quite an interest in the refereeing part of it all,” said Arnold, as he sat in the stands of Takhini Arena. “This friend of my mom and dad’s didn’t have a referee for one of his scrimmages, so they asked me to referee. So I went down and bought a ref jersey, bought some skates, and that’s when I dropped my very first puck at Jim Light Arena.

“They must have liked my refereeing because they kept calling me back — 190 times that year.”

In honour of his 30 years of involvement in local sports, Arnold was inducted into Sport Yukon’s Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual awards ceremony Friday evening.

“Bud is a truly dedicated, unselfish volunteer for hockey and softball in Whitehorse,” said John Berg, referee-in-chief of Yukon Amateur Hockey, introducing Arnold to the packed banquet hall at the Westmark in Whitehorse. “He is the epitome of a true sportsman and has garnered the respect of hockey participants both on and off the ice.”

Besides the unimaginable amount of time he has dedicated to local sports, refereeing as many as 256 games in a single season, Arnold’s induction is overwhelmingly prudent simply on the basis of positions he has held in the past, and ones he still holds today.

For minor hockey alone, Arnold has acted as coach, referee, timekeeper, statistician and referee-in-chief. He has also refed at the Arctic Winter Games and been an off-ice official at the Canada Winter Games.

However, Arnold has probably had the biggest impact sitting on a disciplinary committee for local hockey leagues. As a committee member, he helped decide the course of action that leagues could take to deal with irate people.

“There’s a fine art to responding to an irate player, coach, parent or fan,” said Arnold. “This is one of the hardest skills to teach to a new official; it’s just something that comes with experience.”

In the late ‘90s, Whitehorse leagues were averaging about 160 game incidents a season, which include game misconducts or higher offences. The majority of these resulted from the verbal abuse of officials.

In response, between the 2000 and 2004, Arnold and a handful of other officials were given the authority to administer warning letters and suspensions.

“It didn’t take long for the word to get out,” said Arnold. “At the same time the Canadian Hockey (Association) did their part as well. They introduced a shared respect policy and had players, coaches, parents and officials sign fair-play contracts. They also implemented the zero-tolerance rule.

“The policies are still in place today but are rarely needed. Game incidents have been reduced to less than 20 per season and only a few of these are for verbal abuse.”

Arnold points to these initiatives as the reason the number of league officials has increased from about a dozen in the late ‘90s to 30 or 40 today.

“Hockey is fun again,” said Arnold. “The best reward we see are the smiles on the faces of players after games, win or lose.”

Arnold is also involved in rec hockey, working as safety person, statistician and webmaster for the midget and bantam Mustangs teams.

“That’s why I’m involved in the Mustang teams, because my son’s on it,” said Arnold.

“I was quite a computer dunce a couple years ago; I didn’t know anything about them,” admits the webmaster. “Now I’m doing a whole pile of that.”

According to Arnold, it was because of his son’s involvement in sports that he got involved in coaching, taking the helm of his son’s teams in hockey and softball.

In fact, Arnold wears many hats when it comes to softball too. He acted as an executive for Whitehorse’s co-ed softball league for the last 14 years, including a stint as president. Currently Arnold is secretary treasurer.

Born in Arnprior, Ontario, Arnold moved to Whitehorse at the age of nine and played junior hockey until 14 when he had to quite because of problems with his knees.

Nowadays he’s is back on the ice — often minus the black and white jersey — playing in Whitehorse’s adult rec league, in which he also held or holds positions as an executive member, official supervisor, referee and website manager.

Arnold is a level-three referee and has had opportunities to go on to the next level, but he’s content where he is.

“You have to be invited to a referee camp to get a higher level,” said Arnold, explaining that a level five is the NHL level and six is international. “I’ve been invited to level four clinics and I could have gone far (but) I wasn’t going to move from the Yukon — I love it here.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com