If you’ve ever competed at a speedskating meet in Yellowknife, there’s a better-than-good chance you’ve seen Robin Greig or David Gilday on the ice as officials in some capacity.
Sometimes, they’ve even officiated together.
Regardless, the veteran officials will have some national duties this season after Speed Skating Canada released its list of assignments late last month for its sanctioned meets. Both will be in Calgary in early November for the first Canada Cup event at the Olympic Oval. Greig will work a second event in March 2022: the Canada West Championship in Selkirk, Man.
Greig said it’s always an honour to be chosen to work at the national level.
“I’m very fortunate because there so many officials they could choose from,” he said.
Greig will be working as the first assistant referee to the chief referee while Gilday will be working as the second assistant in Calgary.
Gilday said there isn’t much difference in what the assistants do.
“The easiest way to put it is the chief referee tells you what you’re doing while you’re on the ice,” he said. “You get told to work one end of the ice and the other assistant works the other. You blow the whistle to stop a race, you’re making sure the pucks (corner markers) are in place. Basically, you’re being directed by the chief referee on everything.”
If there is a difference, Gilday said the first assistant deals more with the coaches and explains a lot of what’s going on.
“It’s important to be friendly, to let them know that they’re dealing with a human,” he said. “That’s how I’ve always gone about it because we are human. You need to be fair and you need to be composed because you know the athletes’ nerves are already a wreck so you need to be willing to talk things out.”
Greig said the first assistant is also responsible for taking over if the chief referee runs into difficulty and can’t carry on.
“If the chief referee has to leave for any reason, you’re the one who assumes that role,” he said. “You’re also there to help make decisions if you’re called upon. You’re watching the races and if there’s the need to make a call, you consult with the chief referee on it. If you all saw the same thing, then that’s the call.”
Greig’s assignment in Manitoba will see him serve as the chief referee for that meet and he said that’s where he’ll have to demonstrate that he has a handle on things.
“You have to show confidence and competency when you’re in that position,” he said. “You have to be able to make the call, sometimes tough ones, and do it quickly.”
While the job calls for confidence, Gilday said there’s one thing every official needs to remember: “You aren’t there to be the show,” he said. “No one’s there to watch you and a good official will let the skaters decide things. There’s no need to go making a call to let everyone know you’re there. The best official is one that’s invisible.”
As it stands, Speed Skating Canada is moving ahead with its full schedule of events with no cancellations or postponements to date due to Covid-19.
Greig said when he and Gilday work in Calgary, they will be following whatever protocol is in place at the University of Calgary, which operates the Olympic Oval.
“There’s the rules about masking and hand-washing and we have to show proof of vaccination, so no different than a lot of other events,” he said. “Speed Skating Canada always makes the final call on whether a meet goes ahead but officials also have the choice to opt out if they don’t feel safe.”