On Saturday, November 5 in Kelowna, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League recognized one of its referees for his accomplishments during the 2021-22 season.
Josh Albinati, 26, of Prince George worked the KIJHL Teck Cup Championship series between the Revelstoke Grizzlies and Nelson Leafs and was selected as one of four referees to officiate the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Delta last spring, working the gold medal game.
Albinati is a graduate of the Hockey Canada Officiating Program of Excellence and his strong on-ice performance last season resulted in Josh having the honour of being one of 10 officials nationally to officiate the 2022 Hlinka/Gretzky Cup in Red Deer, featuring the best under-18 players in the world. His older brother Nicholas worked the event as a linesman.
Albinati first got certified in 2008 as a member of Prince George Minor Hockey. Over the years he upgraded his levels and attended different events. In 2017, he was hired by the Western Hockey League as a linesperson and in 2021 they hired him as a referee. Albinati attended the Hockey Canada Western OPoE as a referee and instructed BC Hockey summer officiating school in Osoyoos.
Officials selected to work the Hlinka/Gretkzy Cup are presented with a National Silver-Plated Whistle from Hockey Canada. Prior to the Chiefs hosting the Columbia Valley Rockies, Jason Rende, Director of Officiating and Player Safety for B.C. Hockey, presented Josh with the silver-plated whistle.
Josh took time before the game to share with the KIJHL what this honour meant to him. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
KIJHL: What does it mean to you to receive the Hockey Canada Silver-Plated Whistle?
JA: It’s pretty amazing as a young official from Prince George. I would have never pictured myself being in the position or given the opportunities that have presented themselves. To receive something like this, it’s incredible.
There are a lot of hours you put in from a young age to even now, long drives, long nights. You are making big sacrifices, but to get something like this, it puts it in the bigger picture that it is all worth it in the end.
KIJHL: What was your reaction when you found out you were receiving this?
JA: At first I thought that Jason Rende was kind of kidding. Like you’re poking fun at me. Tonight makes it very real and I couldn’t be more proud of where I have come from and where I am now to receive this, it’s just an amazing honour.
KIJHL: What was it like to be a referee in the 2022 Hlinka/Gretzky Cup?
JA: Seeing the next generation of the superstars that will take over the NHL, that alone was incredible. You walk in the arena, even when you are not working, and you are taking in all the action and seeing these guys that are going to be in the NHL and I’m here, officiating them and being on the ice sharing moments with them. You take a look around, and there are NHL scouts for every team there. It makes it a moment where you’re like this is it, it essentially could be the pinnacle of my referee career.
KIJHL: How did working in that tournament help you in terms of your continued development as a referee?
JA: It makes you hungry for the next level and makes you want to keep going on the international stage. It sets you up for your next set of goals and I would have never pictured myself getting that tournament when I did.
KIJHL: What has your journey as an official been like?
JA: I think I was 13 when I first started and I was able to officiate games with my older cousin Anthony Maletta and then my older brother Nicholas (who is officiating in the AHL). It was a lot of long weekends where the parents would drop you off, you are doing three or four games and are coming home tired. I’m pretty fortunate to come from a pretty good association, where some of the people who I officiated there with are still my best friends today. The mentors there too – I have to thank Bill Hudyma a lot for pushing me to where I am, same with Lance Van Helvoirt. A lot of those guys helped me at a young age and taught me to do things the right way. Now I’m dealing with guys like Jason Rende, Dave McLellan and Lorne Craig. There are a lot of guys that helped me get here. It’s a team effort.
KIJHL: What do you enjoy most about it?
AJ: It keeps me very active and I love hockey. You just stay connected through every league that you watch and it’s rewarding too. Being on the ice with your friends, and being part of the best sport on earth, there’s no real way to describe being a referee now compared to when I was a kid. It’s just being out there and doing the best I can and making sure the game is played fairly and evenly so that teams can do what they are meant to do and that players can progress to the levels that they need to go to.
KIJHL: You have officiated in the KIJHL, how has that time in the league helped you get to where you are now?
AJ: It’s a tough league and a step above minor hockey where now you’re dealing with junior hockey players, men behind the bench, where things will get heated. You have to learn to react appropriately and in a way it develops your fight or flight response. You’re either going to have to puff your chest out, deal with it like a man, or you are going to back yourself into a corner, and you are going to get walked all over. As soon as you get into that corner, there is no way out. You just have to learn to assert yourself, and control the game to the best that you can. If you are on your A game every night, you will have no worries coming through this league.
KIJHL: What would you say to younger officials coming up to encourage them to be an official in the KIJHL?
JA: If you want to work in the other league, and be good at it, you have to dominate the KIJHL first and be one of the best officials. And if you are here, you will succeed in other leagues. You want to work in this league as it’s a part of the growth process and the ladder you have to climb. The KIJHL should be your first priority for junior hockey.
KIJHL: What drew you into deciding you wanted to be an official?
AJ: From a young age my dad was always, get a job, get a job. If my cousin and older brother didn’t take up officiating when they first did, I probably would have never done it myself. I would encourage every single 12-year-old to be an official. It keeps you on the ice, especially if you are playing hockey still. You have to want it – have to live, breathe, die hockey to be an official. I think everyone should give it a chance.
If you are interested in getting started as an official, click the link as it’s three easy steps to get started: https://www.bchockey.net/officials/getting-started.