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Q&A with GTHL official Damian Figueira

Damian Figueira joined the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s officiating ranks for the 2022-23 season after taking part in the League’s Fast Track program for officials.  

The Fast Track program provides individuals with a significant amount of playing experience (at the ‘AAA’ or major junior levels, for example) to become certified and jump right into officiating competitive-level hockey in their first season.  

A former GTHL player, Figueira made the most of the opportunity as a first-year official, officiating the OHL Cup Final as well as making his professional debut in April.  

The GTHL caught up with Figueira to discuss the transition to his first season in stripes, the challenges and successes, and the message he has for other players considering officiating.  

GTHL: When did you start officiating?  

FIGUEIRA: The 2022-2023 season.  

GTHL: What made you decide to get into officiating?  

Damian FigueiraFIGUEIRA: I got involved in officiating because I love the sport of hockey and I wanted to give back to the sport that has given me so much. I loved competing and working hard to be the best I could be as a player, and those are things that you can still do as an official.  

GTHL: Was officiating something you ever considered during your playing career? 

FIGUEIRA: My officiating career almost started 10 years earlier than it did. In 2012, when I was still a player in the GTHL, I took my Hockey Canada Level 1 officiating course and wanted to officiate on Saturday mornings. That year, I ended up having a team conflict and didn’t end up officiating that season. From then on, I never really considered officiating until my third year on York’s varsity hockey team. This is when I started to put some thought into officiating, and the summer following the 2021-2022 season is when I made the decision to pursue it. 

GTHL: What was the biggest challenge you faced when you made the switch from player to official?  

FIGUEIRA: The biggest challenge I found transitioning from playing to officiating was managing my emotions. Hockey is an intense sport and when you’re involved in it as a player, coach, an official, or even as a spectator, your emotions can get the best of you. As a player, you have to manage your emotions differently than you do as an official. Sometimes players need to show their emotions – it can show their teammates how passionate they are, it can intimidate your opponent, and sometimes it can bring your best game out of you. As an official when emotions are rising, it’s important to stay collected. When players see that an official isn’t collected, it can cause temperatures to rise more and could allow the game to get away from you. 

GTHL: You made your professional officiating debut in an American Hockey League game between the Toronto Marlies and the Belleville Senators. What was this experience like for you?  

FIGUEIRA: Making my AHL debut at home in Toronto was very special. I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my parents. They made a lot of sacrifices to give my sister and I opportunities to pursue our dreams when we were younger. To have them at the game and to be able to share that moment with them was very special. My girlfriend, who also supported me in my transition from playing to officiating was at the game. She’s watched more of my games than anyone this year so to have her watch me make that jump was really cool. A lot of my friends and a couple great guys that helped mentor me in the GTHL this season were also in attendance – [Chuck Ferreira and Cam Fynney] taught me a lot and having guys like them involved in officiating makes the experience better for the people around them. I know everyone who came to watch knew how much this meant to me and that they were proud to watch me, so I want to thank them for coming to support me. 

GTHL: What would you tell hockey players who might be considering wearing the stripes?  

FIGUEIRA: I would tell players that are considering officiating to commit to it fully if they’re going to do it. Treat officiating as though you were still playing. Take pride in what you do, work to be the best you can be, and use your knowledge of the game to your advantage.  

GTHL: What is the one message you’d like coaches, parents, and players alike to recognize when it comes to officials?  

FIGUEIRA: The one thing I didn’t realize when I was playing is how passionate officials are about being good at what they do. They take pride in their work, so if they make a mistake, they’re not trying to. Players, coaches, and parents need to be a little more understanding of that.  

THE FAST-TRACK PROGRAM

The GTHL will be providing a fast-tracked approach for new On-Ice Officials to the Competitive stream (‘A,’ ‘AA,’ and ‘AAA’). New on-ice officials will be required to complete a Vulnerable Sectors Screening (VSS) to be eligible to participate.

Anyone interested in the Fast Track Program are encouraged to learn more using the link below.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FAST TRACK PROGRAM


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