Respected whistle blower takes charge in OUA hockey

oua_logoGeorgetown native Bryan Lewis becomes the first referee-in-chief for men’s hockey this season in Ontario University Athletics. He will be responsible for the overseeing of all men’s hockey officials for OUA.

Lewis’ extended officiating career makes him the perfect candidate for such a position. The RIC will be available to individual teams as a point of contact on officiating concerns.

Hockey has always been a part of Lewis’ life. As a kid in Georgetown, Lewis played hockey growing up and participated at the Junior A level before deciding to go into officiating.

“I was very fortunate that the NHL expanded and I was invited to be an official. It started as an apprenticeship program and I built up from American Hockey League and Central Hockey League games and eventually began my career in the National Hockey League,” said Lewis.

Lewis joined the NHL as a referee in the 1966-67 season. His career as an NHL officiate extended over 1,000 league games and 89 playoff games. In 1989, Lewis assumed the role of NHL Director of Officiating, a position he held for 11 years. One of Lewis’ highlights in his career came when he joined the Olympic Committee as an officiating supervisor during the Nagano Olympics.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in the Olympics from a management perspective,” said Lewis. “We did everything we could to make the officials be the best they could be and everything ran like clockwork. I was very pleased with how it all played out.”

He retired from the NHL in 2000 and was selected by Referee Magazine as one of the 52 most influential people in the officiating profession in their November 2007 edition. Lewis is now in his second term as an elected councillor in the town of Halton Hills.

Although Lewis has retired from his officiating career, it does not mean hockey stopped running in his family. His son Duane is the Commissioner for the CHL after playing for the Laurentian University Voyageurs. His son-in-law Rod Pasma, who played in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), is the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations in the AHL. Lewis still finds time to assist the coaching of Ontario Hockey Association’s (OHA) officials and holds the role of operations consultant with the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).

“There aren’t very many times my family isn’t involved in hockey in some form and it doesn’t take much for it to come up when we’re all together,” said Lewis.

His new position at OUA will allow him to make some key changes in the system in regards to officiating. The new RIC position will provide leadership to on-ice officials, give guidance in regards to rules, provide clear rule interpretations to on ice referees, coaches, and team members and give a team someone to turn to when it comes to the rules of the game.

Lewis has been involved with many different organizations in Ontario when it comes to officiating and these relationships will only come as a benefit. He also has experience and a lot of it. His time dealing with league management, coaches and on ice officials simultaneously will be a major asset to OUA.

“When I was approached for the position I knew it would be a challenge. There are many things I believe we can do to help and I have lived this before with the ECHL,” said Lewis.

OUA will be unique in another sense this year. Over 40 per cent of the league’s games must be supervised in terms of officiating and referees will be given evaluations to make them better and more consistent on the ice. Lewis plans on going above and beyond this quota with 33 of 56 games already scheduled to be supervised. If the league decides that someone is not up to standards, they will go back down to Junior B and work their way up.

“You have to earn these assignments for the OUA. Some will stumble, fall, make mistakes, and the ones making fewer mistakes will get the assignments.”

It is clear that Lewis has a vision. He has all of the tools necessary to make the officiating for men’s hockey in OUA the best it’s ever been. The former NHL official hopes that by Christmas break everything will be done properly and efficiently.

“The desire is here for supervisors and OUA has recognized the fact that we have a good playing product in the league. Now we need good officials too.”