A 16-year-old Castlegar hockey official was one of 12 young men from across the province invited to officiate at the U16 BC Cup.
Eric Pilla was the only young official chosen from the Kootenays to referee at the prestigious hockey tournament in April. While the event is largely about the players, it’s also a chance for young referees to exhibit their skills and get some feedback.
“I learned tons and I had some great leaders and coaches that were helping us the entire time, giving us pointers, taking videos and showing us what we were doing right and wrong,” explained Pilla.
The U16 BC Cup is part of the selection process for choosing the players who will play on Team BC at the 2016 Western Branch Challenge Cup. During the regular season, players are evaluated and about 120 from across the province are invited to participate in the U16 BC Cup in Salmon Arm. The players are divided into six teams and compete in a jamboree style tournament, where they have a chance to show their stuff. Based on their performance, players are selected to be part of two teams that attend the U16 Provincial Camp in July. In the end, 20 players are named to Team BC.
Officials for the U16 BC Cup were also chosen from across the province and had to be between the ages of 16 and 21. Pilla was one of three 16-year-olds and was recommended for the event by his mentor.
“Grant Walton was my mentor for the past little while; he’s kind of the reason why I went in the first place. He put my name forward and they selected me to go to this thing,” said Pilla.
He has been lining for about five years, but this year he started refereeing games with Walton, who encouraged him to take his officiating to the next level and recommended him as a linesman for the Major Midget League (MML).
“Hopefully this next season I can do MML games and maybe even a few KIJHL games,” said Pilla. “I think that would be really cool.”
Officiating at the high performance tournament, Pilla had the chance to line three fast-paced games and referee two. He is already exploring officiating for the KIJHL next season and may be able to officiate some pre-season games.
“Kind of slowly get into it because it’s going to be a lot faster and a lot harder to officiate, but definitely some MML games, because the pace at the BC Cup was pretty fast, so I’m kind of getting used to the speed,” he said.
Pilla hopes to make it to the Western Hockey League or NHL as an official.
“Being a referee is awesome. Like it’s really, really fun. If I could take refereeing to the next level and just go on with that, I think that would be amazing,” he said.