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Officiating the OHL Cup: Q&A with GTHL Official Matt Sutton

For Under-16 ‘AAA’ teams, the month of March means two things: playoffs and the OHL Cup.

Also with their sights set on the U16 ‘AAA’ showcase, are officials striving to get the opportunity to skate the tournament featuring the top teams in Ontario and the United States.

As the GTHL will once again host the OHL Cup presented by FPS Payment from March 25-30, the League caught up with official Matt Sutton to discuss what it means to be selected to skate the tournament.

GTHL: What/who got you into officiating? Why did you want to become an official?
SUTTON: When I was 13, my father encouraged me to begin timekeeping hockey games at the arena where he was coaching and I grew up playing. I enjoyed this position as it was a different way to be involved in hockey and helped teach me responsibility. This was my gateway into becoming an official. I knew even at such a young age that I wanted to stay involved in hockey far into my future. I began officiating when I turned 16. I thoroughly enjoyed it and my passion grew immensely as the games became more competitive and I was officiating many nights a week and on the weekends.

GTHL: How long have you been an official?
SUTTON: I’ve been an official for 12 years. I began my officiating career at Victoria Village Arena and at the Leaside House League program. From there, I started working in the North York Hockey League (NYHL) and the GTHL. I currently officiate games in both the GTHL and the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA).

GTHL: To date, what are you most proud of from your officiating career?
SUTTON: I am most proud of how officiating has helped shape my personal life. It has taught me many skills that I apply in everyday life situations. One memory that sticks out is when I worked an OHL Cup Quarterfinal game with my older brother. It was a fun experience, and we’ve since been able to work several games together between the OHA and GTHL.

GTHL: How many OHL Cups have you been a part of to date?
SUTTON: I have been a part of five OHL Cups. I had the opportunity to work as a linesperson for two seasons before being selected as a referee for three.

GTHL: What does getting selected for an event like the OHL Cup mean to an official?
SUTTON: To be selected for the OHL Cup means a great deal to me as an official. It solidifies many of the reasons why I am an official. I work hard and dedicate a lot of time and energy to this job. Ending the season on such a high note at an event like this feels as though my hard work has paid off and I’ve been noticed for the dedication and positive energy that I bring to the ice. It is an accomplishment that makes me feel proud.

GTHL: From your perspective, why do you think skating an event like the OHL Cup is significant to most officials?
SUTTON: I think skating the OHL Cup is significant to most officials because it is rewarding knowing someone has recognized the work and effort we officials contribute. It’s also a showcase for referees and is a step in advancing your officiating career whether you move on to work other leagues or just learn from your fellow officials.

GTHL: What do you remember most from your past OHL Cups?
SUTTON: From the past, it has always stood out to me how much I learn from this experience. I get to officiate with some of the best officials and to work alongside them in that environment is a positive and rewarding opportunity. The hockey is fast and intense which I very much love. I enjoy the professional environment, the excitement of the crowd, and engaging with the players and coaches in a positive fashion.

GTHL: Is there something you’re looking forward to ahead of this year’s OHL Cup?
SUTTON: I am looking forward to a new draft class and seeing the talent this age group has to offer. I’ve had the opportunity to view a lot of the GTHL teams this past season and I’m excited to see teams outside of the GTHL.

GTHL: From your perspective, what do you think is a common misconception by the average hockey fan and/or spectator regarding officials?
SUTTON: One of the largest misconceptions I believe we have to deal with is the idea that we “don’t care.” We care a lot, that’s why we dedicate time away from our families to skate games on the weekends and evenings. We dedicate extra time by going to officiating camps, officiating seminars, and are always working and striving to be better, up to date, and as knowledgeable as we can be about the game. I know for myself that I love what I do, I try my hardest every single time I am on the ice to be the best, most fair, and dedicated official so that everyone involved can have a good experience.

GTHL: Is there one thing you wish more people in hockey recognized or understood about officials, especially at the competitive levels?
SUTTON: I wish that people in hockey understood that we are always trying to make the right call. We use our knowledge and experience to make a judgement call that is right and accurate. Many of us have full time jobs during the day and we still choose to be in the rink at night because we love the game so, so much.

For more information on the 2024 OHL Cup presented by FPS Payment, visit OHLCup.ca.


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